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CAF is one of Europe’s largest charitable foundations. We produce research on charities and charitable giving, develop policy ideas and work with people, companies and charities to help good causes thrive.

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People are using more charities today than two years ago

The number of people using charities in the UK has increased over the past two years with almost every household having used a charitable service, according to new research by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

Figures published today also show that young people and young families are now the most likely groups to have used a charity over the previous year and there has been a surge in the number of single parents regularly using charities.

The results highlight how people in the UK are increasingly turning to charities with 98% of households now reporting to have used at least one charitable service at some point and more than half the population having turned to a charity for support or advice.

The most common ways UK households have used charities are:

  • buying from charity shops (88%)
  • visiting a charity-run gallery, museum, garden or stately house (73%)
  • visiting a church or religious institution of charitable status (51%)
  • getting advice from a charity or information from a charity website (51 %)
  • attended a university (48%)
  • attended a community, youth or voluntary group (such as the Scouts, Girl Guides or Age UK), or attended an event hosted by them (47%)

Young families have seen the biggest increase in their use of charities since 2014.  Today 88% said they have used a charitable service in the last year, up from 78% two years ago. They have also used more types of services (on average 3.99 in the last year) than any other household group. Over the past year they are also the most likely household type to have received advice or information, medical care or housing support including buying or renting a home through a charity.

The number of households using a charity very regularly – at least once a week - has increased by over 500,000 since 2014. It now stands at 3.7m with single parent households  being the most frequent users with 31% using a charity at least once a week compared to 14% of the UK population overall.

Nearly nine out of ten (88%) 18-24 year-olds used a charity in the last year, making them the most likely age group to have used a charitable service. They have also used more types of charities than any other age group (on average 3.75 in the last year) and are now also the most likely group to have ever received medical care (18%) or counselling (33%)  from a charity, watched or participated in a theatre production, event or arts-related programme run by a charity (36%), or attended a community, youth or voluntary group (45%). People aged 35-44 are the least likely group to use a charitable service in the past 12 months with 77% saying they had done so.

The findings, based on a survey of 2,054 UK-based adults by Populus, are part of wide-reaching research on the use of charities by CAF, a charity which works with thousands of other charities and donors to help increase giving.

In terms of overall usage, women are more likely to use charitable services than men, with 54%  having done so in the last month, compared to 44 per cent of men. This mirrors the findings from when CAF last carried out the research in 2014.

Key findings:

  • 98% of households report having ever used a charity service (up from 93% in 2014) while 83% of households have used a charity service in the last 12 months (up from 79% in 2014) and 53% of households have used a charity service in the last month (on a par with the 51% in the 2014 survey);
  • Among single parent households, those who use charities at least monthly has risen from 29% in 2014 to 53% in 2016;
  • Young family households have used the most types of charities averaging 6.95. This compares to the lowest average of 5.44 for older single-adult households and a national average of 6.07;
  • In the last year, young families are the most likely household type to have received advice or information from a charity website (24% vs. 17% overall), received medical care (11% vs. 7% overall), or  bought or rented through a charitable Housing Association (7% vs. 3% overall);
  • Age-wise, young people are the most likely to have personally used a charity service in the last month (60% vs 50% overall) or in the last year (88% vs. 80% overall);
  • Single parent households are the most likely household type to report the most regular use of charities, with 53% using at least monthly (vs. 34% overall) and 31% using at least once a week (vs. 14% overall);
  • More women used charities in the last year than men (86% women vs. 75% men).

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

“Nearly every household in the UK has now used a charity at some point which shows their vital and varied role in society. Everyday more people are walking into their local charity shops, encouraging their children and family members to get involved in community groups and visiting the beautiful galleries and gardens supported by charities in the UK

“But charities are also increasingly serving the basic needs of a community. We are now seeing growing numbers of young people, young families and single parent families counting on charities for ongoing support, whether this is online advice or more sophisticated care services.

“All this goes to highlight the valuable role charities play in our lives, both enhancing our free time and stepping in to offer crucial support which may otherwise be difficult to access.

“Undoubtedly one of the great benefits of a vibrant charity sector is that people are coming together to support each other through the services they use and the causes they care about.”

The findings are from Charity Street 2, which updates CAF’s first report, Charity Street, published in 2014. The report looks at the many ways in which people in the UK collectively use and benefit from the wide range of charities that exist. This year’s full Charity Street 2 report will be published by CAF in June.

Notes to Editors:

  • The Charities Aid Foundation is one of the largest charitable foundations in Europe and serves individual charity donors, businesses and charities, helping them give to the causes they care about and providing financial services tailored to the charity sector. It works with around 250,000 donors, 3,000 companies – including 66% of the FTSE 100 - and 50,000 charities.
  • Here is a link to our first Charity Street report , published in 2014 in partnership with the Institute for Public Policy Research
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