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Britons gave £800 million more to charity as pandemic hit

But some vital causes lose out on funds worth hundreds of millions

29 October 2020

The British people gave £800 million more than usual to charity during the UK’s spring lockdown.

A special Covid-19 report by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) into UK household giving found that giving during the first months of lockdown was at levels normally seen during the peak seasonal fundraising months of November and December when the Poppy Appeal, Children in Need and major Christmas appeals are held.

Between January and June 2020, the public donated a total of £5.4 billion to charity - £800 million more than for the same period in 2019.

However, the report also found that some vital charities suffered unprecedented losses as donors shifted their donations to charities supporting the NHS and opportunities for fundraising were curtailed.

Medical research charities are among the hardest hit by this shift, losing out on an estimated £174 million in the first six months of 2020. Other causes that are normally among the most popular also experienced large drops in donations including animal charities and those supporting children and young people.

Neil Heslop, Chief Executive at the Charities Aid Foundation, said:

“There has never been a time in living memory when we have collectively been more aware of the value of charity in our lives and that is clearly borne out in this CAF report and in the generosity of the British people.

“It is also our sincere hope that these extraordinary levels of giving serve as inspiration and reminds us of what is possible when people come together to support the causes closest to their hearts.

“It is worth remembering that this is not about the charities themselves – at the end of the day it is about the causes they support, be they our neighbours, our friends, or our natural world. We need them all to survive and to thrive, for all of our sakes.”

Other key findings of the CAF UK Giving: Covid-19 Special Report include:

  • There was a large increase in the number of people donating to or sponsoring ‘hospitals and hospices’ during the height of the pandemic’s first wave.
  • One in 5 people reported donating to charities which support the NHS - this reflects the public support for NHS-linked charities and coincides with Captain Sir Tom Moore’s remarkable £32 million fundraising effort.
  • Cash donations – normally the country’s most popular way of giving - saw a substantial drop off between March (34%) and April (13%) and remain at very low levels compared to previous years, reflecting halted charity tin collections, prize draws and other cash transactions.
  • The number of people giving via a website or app increased significantly over the same period (from 13% to 24%) and this remains at much higher levels than normal.
  • Trust in charities, which increased during 2019 after three years of decline, has increased even further since March 2020. The improvement is seen across different age groups and social grades.
  • The general public reported feeling anxious about their household finances early in the pandemic, yet this did not result in giving less to charity.
  • By the end of April the sentiment had completely reversed – more people than usual reported that they intended to donate more in the next 12 months (12% vs. a long term average of 7%) – a figure that remains elevated.
  • The UK remains one of the most generous countries in the world, consistently ranked in the top 10 in the Charities Aid Foundation’s annual World Giving Index.

Download a full copy of the report here.


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