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More work needed to encourage giving to local causes, report finds

Melanie May | 7 February 2024 | News

A London street scene with a red bus and a towerblock. by Albrecht Fietz on pixabay

Donors in more deprived parts of the UK tend not to give to charities targeting local needs, according to a report from Centre for Cities, with work needed to encourage this.

Centre for Cities’ report, Donation nation: The Geography of Charitable Giving in the UK, was supported by a grant from Charities Aid Foundation and looks at the relationship between local economies and people’s willingness to donate to charity in cities and large towns. It also reveals that some of the least affluent UK cities donate more to charity per head than wealthier places.

Comparing places with similar average incomes reveals people in the North of England are more likely to donate to charity than those living in the South. Residents of the northern suburbs of Leeds are twice as likely (16%) to donate to charity as residents of Croydon in South London (8%) – two places where median incomes are £26,000.


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The North East is the most generous with its earnings, with people here giving the highest proportion of their income to charitable causes out of any region of the UK.  Residents in Middlesbrough give double the proportion of their income to charity (1.2%) compared to those living in London’s wealthy Chelsea & Fulham borough (0.6%).

However, income is still the most important factor determining the values donated to charity. Centre for Cities’ analysis shows that while poor places give a high share of earnings, the amounts they give are smaller in absolute terms because earnings are lower than in the most affluent places.

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Centre for Cities recommends that local authorities take a more active role in targeting local charitable donations at local needs. It highlights how ideas like broad local funds, such as the Mayor’s Charity run by Greater Manchester Combined Authority, have galvanised local giving to address local issues. In a survey commissioned for the report, 56% of people said a similar fund in their area would encourage them to give more to local causes. It suggests that this approach could be more widely adopted to bridge the gap between the causes people donate to and local deprivation, particularly in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Wales.

It also recommends ‘Levelling Up Charity Partnerships’ between national and local charities, applying their combined knowledge and resources to reach deprived people in areas where local people are less able to donate to charity.

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said:

“The mismatch between local ability to give and local economic needs from place to place is well known. The charities sector recognises that it can’t always reach the most deprived parts of the UK, particularly as resources have been squeezed over the last decade.


“The ability to donate and get involved is ultimately related to income so, to address it, we need economic growth and income growth everywhere. This would give everyone the increased chance to give to local causes.


“More can also be made of the donations that are given – from a levelling up perspective – by channelling a greater share of them to local issues related to economic deprivation. Local authorities, by raising awareness and helping to direct giving, can help people living in an area target their generosity towards issues where their help is needed most. In places where opportunities to volunteer time or give money are limited, this can make a big difference.”