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Susan Pinkney

Head of Research
Charities Aid Foundation

E: research@cafonline.org

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Almost three months into lockdown in the UK, what changes in giving behaviour are we seeing?

15 June 2020

Susan Pinkney, Head of Research, looks at what our recent charity research is telling us.

We are now on the cusp of three months in lockdown, with shops re-opening and many of us – the lucky ones who can do so, still working from home. Our latest UK Giving survey with the general public conducted at the end of May* showed that a large number of people (41%) have experienced a decrease in their disposable incomes and almost half (45%) are worried about their household income over the next six months. Logic would dictate that with this backdrop, we are likely to see continuing changes in giving to charity by individuals.

Firstly, it is heartening to see from our research that the percentage of people who say they have given money to charity in the four weeks before being interviewed remained largely in line with the 2019 UK average – 30% had given in this month, compared to the 2019 average of 32%. Since the start of this pandemic however, we have been commenting on the fact that although the levels of people giving may be similar, the causes people are choosing to support have changed.

Changing support for NHS charities

In March and April, we saw huge levels of support for NHS charities, with 40% and 42% respectively intending to donate to this cause as a result of the pandemic in the next 3 months. As time has moved on, in May, this level dropped back down to 31%. Meanwhile, 17% told us they had already donated to an NHS charity. 

People across the UK continue to tell us that they intend to donate to local charities in the next 3 months as a result of the pandemic, 40% in May, up from 34% in March and on par with the 41% in April. This week marks the start of Small Charities Week across the UK so this is great news for the many, often local, small charities out there. There has been less movement over time with those saying they would donate to national charities, 23% in March, peaking at 28% in April before falling back slightly to 26% in May.   

Uncertain future for charitable giving

It’s too early to know what the long term impact will be in how we give and what we give to. Given the unprecedented times, historical giving trends may not help us understand what will happen over the coming months and years. To read more about this, and the outlook for charitable giving, I recently contributed to an article on the Economics Observatory with Professor Kimberley Scharf that looks at just that.

 *May fieldwork was conducted 18 – 28 May

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