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1.6m fewer people gave last year – but average donation size rose

a hand holding a credit card

1.6m fewer people donated to charity last year but the average donation rose in response to the pandemic, particularly amongst older adults, according to CAF’s latest UK Giving report, released today.

The 2021 UK Giving report is based on the responses of 13,406 adults questioned by YouGov across last year. It found that 62% of people gave to charity last year through donations or sponsorship, dropping from 65% the previous year. This rate has been declining since 2016 when 69% donated, and while the latest drop is likely to have been fuelled by the cancellation of fundraising events during the lockdowns and ongoing social distancing measures, CAF‘s figures show donation levels remaining low into 2021 when most restrictions have lifted.

Cover of The UK Giving Report 2021 - "the largest study of giving behaviour in the UK" by CAF
Image: CAF


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As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, those who did give, donated more than in the past.  In any given month, people gave an average of £53.52 via donations or sponsorship, compared the £45.69 in 2019, even though one in three (36%) had personally experienced a decrease in their household’s disposable income because of the pandemic. The average monthly donation has remained slightly higher in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels, with an average monthly donation of £49 from January to June, compared to £42 for the same period in 2019.

Donation levels were especially low during the 2020 festive period – usually the peak time of year for charitable giving. Last November, 32% of people said they had given via donations or sponsorship in the past four weeks, down from 43% in November 2019.

Average donations by age group

Average donations (not including sponsorship) increased in 2020 amongst older adults and declined in younger adults. Those aged 55-64 gave an average monthly donation of £71 in 2020, compared to £45 the previous year. While in previous years, donors aged 25-34 have given the largest donations, this declined from £50 in 2019 to £45 in 2020. For 16-24 year olds, the average monthly donation fell more sharply, from £46 in 2019 to £29 in 2020.

Animal welfare, children or young people, and medical research were the most popular causes as shown in the table below.

Overall giving figures

The research found that an estimated £11.3bn was given to charities in 2020, increasing from £10.6bn in 2019, with £5.4 billion donated between January to June. Despite lockdown restrictions lifting, during the first half of 2021, this fell to an estimated £4.6 billion.

Neil Heslop, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation said:

“While we rightly celebrate a rise in the total amount given to charity over the course of 2020, there has been a worrying trend over the last five years that the number of people donating continues to decline, despite the tremendous generosity we have all witnessed during the pandemic. Although those who give are giving more, we know that for charities to survive and be there for those they help, they rely on mass giving.”


“It is heartening to note that even as people worry about household finances in uncertain times, giving to charity remains integral to the lives of millions.”

Cash vs. online giving

Cash donations dwindled in 2020 with only 38% of donors giving in this way, compared to 51% the previous year. This has continued into 2021 with as little as 7% of donors using cash in January 2021.

Last year saw an increase in donors using digital methods, peaking in May 2020 when 35% gave via a website or app, compared to 9% who gave in cash. Of those between 55-64, a quarter (25%) gave via a website or app in 2020, compared with 17% in 2019. Amongst those aged over 65, 18% gave via a website or app in 2020, compared to 14% the previous year, and the proportion giving by debit card increased from 13% to 18%.

However, CAF’s report finds that the numbers of people giving online has not been sustained, declining to 14% in August 2021.