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Donations to charity fall by 20% as fewer people give – new report finds

Donations to charity fall by 20% as fewer people give – new report finds

Donations to charity fell by 20% in real terms during 2011/12. The public gave £1.7bn less to charity than the previous year, according to the longest-running and most authoritative annual study of giving across the United Kingdom.

The number of people giving to charity has declined and the amounts they gave also fell, according to a major new report, compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

Today (Tuesday November 13) CAF and NCVO launch a campaign to Back Britain’s Charities, aimed at ensuring that the vital work of charities is not damaged by this worrying fall in giving.

The report, based on a survey of more than 3,000 people by the Office for National Statistics, found the total amount given to charities by people across the UK fell from £11bn to £9.3bn during 2011/12 – a cash fall of £1.7bn, and the largest in the survey’s eight year history. Adjusted for inflation, this fall in donations represents £2.3bn.

The average (median) amount people gave each month fell from £11 to £10 last year and was down from an average of £12 a month in 2009/10.

Key findings include:

  • Total donations fell by 15% in cash terms and 20% in real terms (i.e. adjusted for inflation) between 2010/11 and 2011/12.
  • Estimated total donations to charity were £9.3bn, down £1.7bn on 2010/11 in cash terms and £2.3bn in real terms (i.e. adjusted for inflation).
  • The proportion of people donating to charitable causes in a typical month fell from 58% to 55% in the past year.
  • The average (median) amount given per donor in a typical month fell from £11 in 2010/11 to £10 in 2011/2012.
  • 28.4 million people gave to charity, more than half of all UK adults.
  • Medical research, hospitals and hospices, and children and young people are the most popular causes among donors, but religious causes received the largest average donations.
  • Women continue to be more likely to give to charity than men, with 58% of women giving to charity in a typical month compared with 52% of men.
  • Cash is the most common form of giving (over 50%) in 2011/2012. Direct debit accounts for 31% of the total amount donated, an increase of 6% from 2010/2011.

 Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:

“I am very worried that fewer people are giving to charity. Charities are already being squeezed by greater needs, cuts in funding and rising costs.

“I know people want to help when they can and I know that they can make a difference. If I could ask one thing, I’d ask people to commit to regular donations through direct debit, and give using Gift Aid, so charities can plan properly. We cannot afford to lose the services charities provide.”

 John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said:

“The drop in giving shown by our survey is deeply worrying for those charities which rely on donations to provide vital frontline services. Combined with public spending cuts this represents a potentially severe blow for many charities.

"We hope the fall in giving shown in our survey is a temporary decline and not the start of a damaging trend. If donations continue to fall, many charities will face profound difficulties carrying on their work and the people and communities they serve will suffer.

"Britain remains one of the world’s most generous nations. But cash is tight for everyone and people are finding it harder and harder to find money to give to charity. It is vital that Government, businesses and the public Back Britain’s Charities so they survive and carry on their work in these tough times.”

 Charities provide a range of vital services across the country, supporting many of the most vulnerable people and making a real difference to people’s lives. The report says that these remain difficult times for many charities, particularly small and medium sized organisations who we suspect may be disproportionately affected by reductions in giving.

Many charities are not in the fortunate position of holding reserves. Faced with falling donations and public spending cutbacks, those that do are having to dip into them to keep meeting the needs of their beneficiaries. The report says that some are having to close front-line services, some are having to make redundancies and some face closure. It argues that the drop in donations is a concern for everyone in our society, not just charities.

 CAF and NCVO are calling for:

  • People to support charities through regular giving, regardless of how much time or money can give.
  • The Government to modernise and promote Gift Aid and payroll giving so donations go further.
  • The Government to ensure that public bodies do not cut funding for charities disproportionately when making spending reductions.
  • Business to support charities either through donations, or through practical means.
  • Charities to work together with the Government to modernise and improve fundraising and enhance their impact, so that every pound given goes further towards helping beneficiaries.

 Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising commented:

“This report shows how important it is for charities to fundraise effectively to support their vital causes. Campaigns like this are important to help raise awareness, and hopefully more money, for causes across the UK.”

For more information contact:

National Council for Voluntary Organisations press office: 020 7520 2469/ 07507 558 597 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Charities Aid Foundation press office: 03000 123 286/03000 123214/ 03000 123275/ 03000 123212/ 07979 592036 (out of hours press calls only) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


  1. Backing Britain’s Charities is a campaign led by CAF and NCVO, with support from SVCO and WCVA. Visit the Backing Britain’s Charities campaign website
  2. The NCVO/CAF Survey of Individual Giving collects data from adults over 16 in Great Britain. The survey is run three waves each year, in June, October and February. This Omnibus survey is   conducted by the Office of National Statistics and analysed by NCVO and CAF.

NCVO champions and strengthens the voluntary sector, with 8,500 members, from the largest charities to the smallest community organisations. Alongside our sister councils in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, we make sure the voluntary sector can do what it does best.

CAF promotes charitable giving and provides financial services and social finance to not-for-profit organisations. Visit the CAF website.

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