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Fewer people taking part in charitable activity than before pandemic

Fewer people are engaging with charities compared to before the pandemic, new research shows. Donation levels, volunteering and sponsorship have still not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, suggesting a worrying and permanent change in charitable activity.

Charities Aid Foundation’s (CAF) long-running UK Giving Report publishes survey data about the trends of the giving landscape for the whole of 2022. This covers the scale of the UK public’s generosity in response to the invasion of Ukraine followed by the implications of the cost-of-living crisis at home.

Although participation in charitable and civic activities in 2022 was similar to 2021 (83% in 2021 to 84% in 2022), it is still well below pre pandemic levels of 88%. Throughout 2022, only 7% report volunteering for a charity in the past four weeks, down from 9% in 2019. Additionally, only 13% say they volunteered in the last year, compared to 17% pre-pandemic, which represents around 1.6million fewer people volunteering over the past five years.

The cost-of-living crisis has also had a marked impact on charitable giving. Across 2022, more than two thirds (69%) of people said they would need to make cuts to their spending to help manage bills, including 17% who said they would be likely to cut their charitable donations. A quarter (24%) of people reported changing their charitable behaviours, including reducing or cancelling a regular charity donation (5%), and choosing not to make a one-off donation (10%).

Compared to the same months in 2021, March and April were the only months of 2022 when giving spiked– to 34% and 28% respectively – seemingly in reaction to the invasion of Ukraine. In March 2022, the average donation increased to £85 and remained high at £64 in April.

This contributed to an estimated £12.7 billion donated to charities in 2022, an increase of £2 billion compared to 2021. The increase in the overall amount given in 2022 is a result of people donating higher amounts, rather than an increase in the number of people giving. However due to rising inflation, analysis from Pro Bono Economics suggests this may have been eroded by as much as £0.5 billion.

Neil Heslop OBE, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said:

“It is worrying that we continue to see a declining number of people donating to charity alongside the drop in participation in fundraising events and volunteering due to Covid lockdowns, which now appear to be locked in.

“While the Government’s lifelines for charities this year may have been make or break for many, these findings show the next task is to come up with the policy solutions and incentives required to foster a more widespread culture of giving and participation in the UK.”

Jansev Jemal, Research and Policy Director at Pro Bono Economics, said:

“Charities have experienced a protracted period of difficulty since the outset of the pandemic. While managing a truly challenging triple threat of rising costs, income worries and spiralling demand, they continue to play their critical role supporting communities, providing services, and campaigning for change. It’s important that policymakers consider how they can support charities to raise more funds and to invest in the improvements they need.”

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