Armed forces charities inspire people to back good causes

27 June 2015

Seven in 10 people in the UK have supported an armed forces charity in the past year, according to new research published today to coincide with Armed Forces Day.

Polling commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) found that, even with British troops not currently deployed in conflict, public support for charities supporting soldiers and veterans remains high, particularly among older people.

It comes as new analysis of charity income carried out by CAF reveals that more than £1 billion has been given to armed forces charities in the five years between 2009 and 2013 – the most recent year for which figures are available.

An opinion poll carried out on behalf of CAF by the polling company Populus this month found that:

  • 70% of people had done at least one thing to support an armed forces charity in the past year. The most popular way to show support was buying a Remembrance Day poppy (61%). One in three people (34%) had given money, while one in seven (14%) had bought a charity wristband or other merchandise.
  • Older people are much more likely to have supported an armed forces than the young. Some 86% of over-65s had supported an armed forces charity in the past 12 months compared with 54% of 18 to 34-year-olds.
  • People’s attitudes to our serving troops and giving to charities in general had been improved by seeing the work of armed forces charities. 50% of people agreed that seeing the work of armed forces had made them more likely to support other charities while 71% agreed that the public’s attitude to serving troops had improved dramatically thanks to the work of these organisations.
  • Almost four-in-five people (79%) agreed that the activities of armed forces charities are just as important in times of peace as they are in time of was and conflict. And 74% agreed that armed forces charities are filling a gap in the case of British veterans caused by government funding cuts.

Public support for the work of armed forces charities like Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion is reflected in donations received by these organisations.

CAF, which promotes charitable giving and provides financial services to support not-for-profit organisations, analysed the published financial returns of 396 charities that support servicemen and women for the period between 2009 and 2013.

The figures show a surge in donations in recent years, with people in the UK having donated more than £1 billion over that period.

However, while donations remained high in 2013 – with £230 million given to armed forces charities – sums being donated were down slightly on 2012 when they peaked at £273 million.

CAF said that the figures showed the need for armed forces charities to continue reaching out the public, particularly younger people who are less likely to give.

John Low, Chief Executive of CAF, said:

“It is fantastic to see that the amazing support armed forces charities give to serving troops, veterans and their families continues to be recognised and backed by the public.

“There has been a huge surge in support for these charities in recent years, in part reflecting people’s desire to so something to support those who fought on our behalf in long-running conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“However, there can be no room for complacency, and these charities will be working hard to ensure the vital work they have to do is not overlooked by the public now that our troops are less involved in direct combat.

“Britain is one of the most generous countries in the world and this survey shows how people rally round to help causes they care about when they can see what charities really can achieve. Armed forces charities are great ambassadors for the important role that civil society plays in all aspects of life in the UK.”


Voluntary donations to armed forced charities – CAF analysis

  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Total amount of donations £167.5 million £221.9m £262.8m £273.5m £230.8m
Number of UK armed forces charities with income over £500,000 52 58 61 62 66

To identify armed forces charities we adopted the definition used by the Directory of Social Change in their ‘UK Armed Forces Charities’ report and database, focusing specifically on ‘welfare charities’ operating in England and Wales (n= 396).

Voluntary income is defined by the Charity Commission as incoming resources generated from the following sources:

  • Gifts and donations received including legacies
  • Any tax reclaimed on amounts received under gift aid
  • Grants that provide core funding or are of a general nature
  • Membership subscriptions and sponsorships where these are, in substance, donations
  • Gifts in kind and donated services and facilities

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