Most people give their unwanted gifts to charity

31 December 2015

Three out of five people have received unwanted Christmas presents, according to new research by the Charities Aid Foundation - but instead of trying to sell them online, the most popular way to get rid of the unwanted gifts is to give them to charity.

Clothes are the most likely item to be donated to charity, followed by toiletries, books and toys.

Only 3% of us were brave enough in the past to admit the gift wasn’t quite right and exchange them and just 2% returned them or got a refund.

The research, based on a poll by Populus, also reveals charities are benefitting from constantly evolving technology.

When buying new tech, nearly one in five people have given an older device or appliance to charity. And this device is most likely to be a mobile phone, followed by PCs, laptops, tablets and televisions.

The research commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) found:

  • 58% of us admit to having not kept or used a Christmas present in the past – more women (64%) than men (51%)
  • Among those of us who have not kept presents in the past, the most popular thing to do is give them to charity (67% of us)  -  71% of women  and 58% of men
  • People have also given presents they didn’t keep to friends or family (59%), recycled them (35%) or sold them on eBay (4%)
  • Only 3% of us have exchanged items we did not keep and just 2% returned them.
  • Of the items donated to charity, the largest portion were clothes (47%),  24% were toiletries, bath or shower items, 16% were books,  9% toys, 8% ornaments, 5%  jewellery, and 5% scarves.

Giving older devices away when buying new technology:

  • 17% have given away an older device or appliance to charity when buying new technology
  • The most common thing to do is give the older device to a friend or relative (46%)
  • The most common technology given to charity is mobile phone (65%), followed by PCs (22%), laptops (16%), tablets (7%) and televisions (3%).

CAF commissioned the research. It is a UK-based global charity which helps people businesses support the causes they care about and provides financial services to charities.

John Low, Chief Executive of CAF, said:

“The festive season is a time when people are tremendously generous to each other and giving is in the forefront of our minds. Charities can really benefit at Christmas as so many of us try and find valuable uses for well-intentioned gifts which might not quite hit the spot.

“It is wonderful that people are thinking about the wider community and making the best of that woolly jumper which will never be worn.

“Giving unwanted gifts to charity is so easy   - just drop them off at your closest charity shop  - or  researching which cause you value most and find out how they can benefit from your gift. What better way to get 2016 off to a charitable start than with a trip to the local charity shop?”


  1. Populus surveyed 2,103 UK adults aged 18+, on their online omnibus survey, during the 6th – 8th November 2015
  2. See also  initiatives like eBay for Charity which encourage people to turn unwanted gifts into donations by offering an option to donate a percentage (from 10 – 100%) of the final sale to a charity of their choice.
  3. Phone-recycling company which works with charities such as Oxfam, WaterAid and Plan UK, said there is a large spike in gift donations around Christmas. The company has raised more than £3.5m for charity through phone donations from recycling more than 750,000 mobiles since 2003.
For more information contact the Charities Aid Foundation press office, 0300 012 3286




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What to do with unwanted gifts

You don’t have to leave unwanted presents gathering dust. We’ve found three ways to do something good with the gifts that leave you uninspired.

Do good with your unwanted gifts