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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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Britons have become more generous in last year

3 December 2013

The UK is top of the developed world for giving money to charity, with 76% of Britons giving to good causes in a typical month.

This increase in financial giving makes the UK the sixth most charitable nation in the world, up from 8th, in the World Giving Index, the biggest annual global survey of giving published today.

The survey also found that Britons are becoming more generous with their time. Volunteering levels rose by three percentage points from the previous year to 29%.

The UK also became a friendlier place, with a huge increase in the amount of people who helped a stranger in a typical month, up by nine percentage points to 65%.

The index is based on surveys in 135 countries by Gallup over the past year and looks at three measures of giving: the percentage of people who give money to charity, volunteer their time or help a stranger in a typical month.

While the UK tops Europe in terms of giving money to charity, Ireland is the most generous nation in Europe overall, with a higher proportion of the Irish volunteering (37%) pushing the UK into second place in Europe.
The index found that the United States was the most generous country on earth, followed in joint second place by Canada, Burma and New Zealand, with Ireland in fifth place.

The next five most generous countries were the UK, Australia, Netherlands, Qatar and Sri Lanka respectively. Greece was bottom of the World Giving Index with Croatia just above them.

Overall, the world became a more generous place last year. Despite a slowdown in the global economy, the average percentage of people donating money, volunteering time and helping a stranger all increased.
The rise in giving was largely driven by an extra 200 million people helping a stranger in 2012. This was more than double the growth in the number of people giving money or volunteering.

Globally, women are more likely to give money to charity, while men are more likely to volunteer and help a stranger. There was a big increase this year in men helping strangers, meaning that proportionally more men are helping strangers than ever before.

Emerging economies are surging ahead in giving: in India 244m people give money to charity in a typical month, up from 163m last year. In China 373m people help a stranger in a typical month.

John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “It’s excellent news that the UK is sixth in the world for generosity and second for giving money to charity. With the difficult economic climate and rising living costs, it is humbling to see that the majority of Britons choose to give money to good causes every month.

“We should be proud of the excellent culture of giving we have in the UK, but must not get complacent. There is still so much the government, businesses and charities can do to encourage greater giving and volunteering.

“Global levels of generosity are growing, with developing economies showing a huge surge in giving and volunteering. These rapidly developing countries have the potential to have a massive positive impact both in their local communities and internationally through their giving.

“It’s important that governments and charities in these countries work together to harness the giving potential of these growing middle classes to create an even greater charitable culture in these booming economies.”

On the three key indicators of giving money, giving time and helping a stranger, the report found that in 2012:

Giving money

  • Burma was the country with the largest proportion of people donating money to a charity (85%). This highlights the fact that giving is about more than just wealth. In fact, out of the top ten countries for donating money to charity, eight are not in the G20. The UK was second (76%), Malta third (72%) and Ireland and Thailand joint fourth (70%).
  • More people donated money to charity in India than anywhere in the world, with over 244 million people having donated. Pakistan also entered the top ten for the amount of people donating money to charity, following a third successive year of disastrous flooding, affecting over five million people.

Giving time

  • Since 2011 the biggest increase in participation in volunteering has been among 15-24 year olds (from 18.4% in 2011 to 20.6% in 2012). Over the last five years this age group has gone from least likely to volunteer to second most likely to volunteer.
  • Turkmenistan topped the list of countries with the highest proportion of people giving time (57%), followed by Sri Lanka (46%), United States (45%), Burma (43%) and the Philippines (43%).
  • Due to India’s vast and growing population, coupled with a sharp increase in the proportion of its people volunteering (from 10% to 18%), India has surpassed the United States, with as many as 157 million people volunteering in a typical month.

Helping a stranger

  • Americans were more likely to help strangers than any other nationality in 2012 (77%), and the country also boasts the third highest number of people who do so.
  • Qatar had the second highest proportion of people helping a stranger (73%), followed by the State of Libya (72%), Colombia (70%) and Senegal (68%).
  • China tops the list for the highest number of people helping strangers due to its large population. Over 373 million people help a stranger in China in a typical month.


Table 1: Top 20 countries in the World Giving Index, with scores and participation in giving behaviours.

Country World Giving Index Ranking World Giving Index Score (%) Donating Money (%) Volunteering time (%) Helping a stranger (%)
United States of America 1 61 62 45 77
Canada 2 58 68 42 64
Myanmar 3 58 85 43 46
New Zealand 4 58 67 40 67
Ireland 5 57 70 37 64
United Kingdom 6 57 76 29 65
Australia 7 55 67 34 64
Netherlands 8 54 69 37 57
Qatar 9 51 60 19 73
Sri Lanka 10 48 45 46 54
Norway 11 48 56 35 53
Malta 12 47 72 24 46
Switzerland 13 47 56 32 54
State of Libya 14 46 29 37 72
Austria 15 45 52 28 56
Philippines 16 45 31 43 60
Hong Kong 17 44 63 15 55
Iceland 18 44 63 25 45
Indonesia 19 44 63 30 40
Nigeria 20 44 30 36 66

Only includes countries surveyed in 2012.

Data relates to participation in giving behaviours during one month prior to interview.

World Giving Index scores are shown to the nearest whole number but the rankings are determined using two decimal points.  

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