UK Civil Society Almanac 2012 /
What are the main trends in charitable giving?

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Giving to charity[35a] manifests itself in many different ways: from giving loose change to monthly direct debits; from giving to the homeless to international non-governmental organisations. Not all charitable giving is to charities. Donations might be made by individuals or collectively as families; donors could be children or adults. We capture some, though not all, of this complexity. Here we report on gifts to charity made by the UK adult population.

What proportion of people give to charity?

Charitable giving remains widespread: 58% of adults donated to charitable causes in a typical month in 2010/11, equivalent to 29.5 million adults. The proportion of adults giving is two percentage points higher than in 2009/10, when 56% donated, and continues the increase seen since the low point of 54% in 2008/09.

The proportion of adults giving to charity and the total annual amount donated, inflation adjusted, 2004/05 – 2010/11 (£ billions, %)
Bar chart showing the trend in giving over time, with pie charts showing the proportion of people who give

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Source: NCVO/CAF

How much do people give?

The average, or mean, donation in 2010/11 was £31 per donor, the same as in 2009/10. The mean is, however, skewed upwards by a small number of very large donations; the median donation is arguably a better indicator. At £11 per month in 2010/11 this has decreased slightly from last year, but is still higher than in all other years since 2004/05. The estimated total annual amount donated to charity by adults in 2010/11 was £11.0 billion, the same as in 2009/10 after adjusting for inflation.

Looking at the total amounts given to charity over the last seven years, 2007/08 remains the year when the largest amount in real terms was donated (£11.9 billion after adjusting for inflation). Since 2008/09, charitable giving has grown by 6.1% in real terms. Given that there have been real terms drops in both take home pay and disposable income over the same period, a clear conclusion is that the public’s determination to give to charity has remained strong during recession.

Median and mean amounts given per month, per donor, 2004/05 – 2010/11 (£)
Median amount per donor10101010101211
Mean amount per donor24282932303131

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Source: NCVO / CAF

What is the impact of high-level donors?

A small number of donors continue to generate a large proportion of the total amount donated. In 2010/11, 7% of donors gave more than £100 per month, but these donors generated almost half (45%) of the total amount given to charity. The sector is clearly reliant on this group.[35a]

In 2009/10, there were 80 donations from individuals worth £1 million or more, made either directly or through a personal charitable trust or foundation. There were 20% fewer donations of this size in 2009/10 compared to 2008/09. The total value has also decreased, from just over £1 billion in 2008/09, to £782 million in 2009/10. However, the average (mean) value is similar, at £9.8 million in 2009/10, compared to £10.2 million in 2008/09.[35b]

The causes favoured by these individual donations have changed this year. Higher education has dropped from the top cause (£22 million) (once money ‘banked’ in foundations is excluded from the calculation) to the fourth most popular destination, after international development (£55 million), arts and culture (£35 million), and human services and welfare (£33 million).

The number and value of million pound donations, 2008/09 – 2009/10
Number of donations10080
Total value (£ millions)1,000782
Mean value (£ millions)10.29.8

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Source: Breeze, 2011

Who gives?

In 2010/11, as in all previous years of the survey, women were more likely to give than men: 61% of women donated money to charity, compared with 56% of men. The average amounts given were also a little higher for women: the median donation among women was £13 compared to £10 among men. Patterns of giving vary with age. Looking at both gender and age, women aged 45-64 are the group most likely to give (67%). In 2010/11, as in 2009/10, they also gave the largest median amount (£20 compared to £11 for all adults).

Giving also varies by occupation group. In 2010/11, as in all previous years of the survey, people in managerial and professional occupation groups were the most likely to give (70%) and gave larger median amounts on average (£20), whilst people in routine and manual occupation groups were less likely to give (52%) and gave smaller median amounts on average (£8). Those in the intermediate occupation groups fell between the two extremes at 57%.

Proportion giving and median donation size by age and gender, 2010/11
Chart showing that the most valuable group of donors is women aged 45-64, who give the highest median amount and are most likely to give to charity.

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Source: NCVO/CAF

What causes do people give to?

In 2010/11, medical research was the cause supported by the largest proportion of donors, with 38% donating. The next most popular causes were hospitals (supported by 26% of donors) and children and young people (supported by 24% of donors). These have consistently been the most popular causes since the survey began in 2004/05. Medical causes take the greatest share of donations, accounting for 17% of the total amount. Religious causes, children and young people and overseas causes also account for a large share of the total.

Proportion of donors giving to different causes and proportion of total amount donated going to different causes, 2010/11
Bar chart showing the popularity of medical research, hospital and children's charities compared to arts, sports and environmental charities

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Source: NCVO/CAF

How does Gift Aid contribute to the sector’s income?

Gift Aid is part of a wider system of charitable tax reliefs worth £3.5 billion in 2010/11. £2.64 billion of this was claimed by voluntary organisations, through tax repayments, national non-domestic rates, VAT and stamp duty/land tax. The remainder, £880 million, was claimed by those giving to charity.[35c] Although Gift Aid is the most widely known scheme, relief from national non-domestic rates is worth slightly more to organisations. In 2010/11, 65,000 organisations reclaimed Gift Aid.[35d] This suggests one-third (39%) of all UK voluntary organisations reclaim Gift Aid.

In 2010/11 the value of Gift Aid claims (which now include covenants) increased to £1.1 billion, the value of donations was estimated at £3.8 billion (net) and £4.9 billion (gross).[35e]

NCVO/CAF estimated that 42% of donors used Gift Aid in 2010/11, slightly higher than the proportion of 40% in 2009/10. Donors of larger amounts are more likely to use Gift Aid: 70% of donations over £100 a month attracted Gift Aid compared to 23% of donations under £10 a month.[35a]


Unless stated otherwise, statistics used in this question are taken from NCVO/CAF (2011) UK Giving 2011
Breeze (2011) The million pound donors report 2011,University of Kent (pdf)
HMRC (2011) Table 10.2 Costs of tax relief (pdf)
HMRC (2011) Table 10.4 Gift Aid repayments to charities (pdf)
HMRC (2011) Table 10.3: Gift Aid and covenants (pdf)
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UK Civil Society Almanac 2012 / The Voluntary Sector /Income: in focus

Published: 17-02-2012 / Tagged: | | |