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UK giving hasn't risen as proportion of household spending in 20 years

UK giving hasn't risen as proportion of household spending in 20 years

Research by the University of Bristol and City University London has found that charitable giving by UK households is “largely recession-proof”. Unfortunately, there has been no change in donations as a share of total household spending for more than 20 years. Households today give 0.4 per cent of their expenditure to charity, exactly the same as they did in 1988.

Research for ‘The new state of donation: Three decades of household giving to charity, 1978 – 2008′ was carried out by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at the University of Bristol and the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) at Cass Business School, City University London. It analyses UK households’ charitable giving over more than 30 years.

The researchers found that during this period poorer donors have remained more generous than richer donors in terms of the proportion of their budgets they give to charity. The poorest 10% of givers donate 3.6 per cent of their total spending to charity, compared with 1.1% for the richest 10 per cent.

Elderly donors and better-off donors now account for a bigger share of total donations than they did in the past. The over-65s now account for more than a third of all donations, compared with a quarter in 1978. Today, the richest 10% of donors account for 22% of total donations, compared with 16% in the early 1980s.

The report’s author, Professor Sarah Smith from the University of Bristol, said: “The relative stability of charitable giving is both good and bad news for the sector. It means that charities can rely on donors, even in times of recession. But it also indicates the huge scale of the challenge in raising the level of donations.

“Since the 1980s, there have been increases in the generosity of tax relief, big changes in the way people give to charity and a professionalisation of charity fundraising. While these changes may have prevented charitable donations from falling, there is little evidence that they have brought about a step change in how much people give.”

Report author, Cathy Pharoah, Cass Business School at City University London, added: “The good news is that the long-term decline in the proportion of households giving has halted since the turn of the century – and donations have been very resilient to the recession. But it remains a challenge to bring about a substantial increase in giving as a share of households’ total spending”.

The study was presented this afternoon at the Royal Statistical Society. It’s key findings include:

The good news

· Average donations have increased in real terms over three decades. Looking at the whole population (both givers and non-givers), donations have more than doubled – from £0.96 per week in 1978 to £2.36 per week in 2008.

· Charitable giving is largely recession-proof. Donations have typically grown in times of economic growth and have not fallen at the same rate as the economy during recessions.

· Looking only at givers, donations have gone up three-fold – from £3.05 per week in 1978 to £8.66 per week in 2008.

The bad news

· There has been no change in donations as a share of total spending for more than 20 years. Households today give 0.4 per cent of their spending, exactly the same as they did in 1988.

· The millennium year marked a turning point in the long-term decline in the proportion of UK households that give to charity. Roughly a third of households gave to charity in 1978, but by 1999 this share had fallen to roughly a quarter. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the proportion of givers has averaged over 28%.

· Charitable giving increasingly depends on elderly donors.

· Better-off donors now account for an increasing share of total donations.

· Poorer givers are more generous in terms of the proportion of their total budgets given to charity.

Survey background

The data in the report are from the Living Costs and Food (LCF) survey, originally called the Family Expenditure Survey (FES). The analysis is based on information on 205,925 households. The report focuses on giving among the general household population, excluding major donors since these are not captured in a household-level survey.

The paper, ‘The new state of donation: Three decades of household giving to charity, 1978 – 2008’, by Edd Cowley (UoB), Tom McKenzie (CASS), Cathy Pharoah (CASS) and Sarah Smith (UoB) is available for download from:

https://fluff.bris.ac.uk/fluff/u/ficmc/KCiG5_og08GT459oVcvwIALQ/

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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