An overview of charitable giving in the UK


UK Giving 2018 reveals who gives to good causes, how people give and which charities are most likely to receive support.

Read the full report


UK Giving is the largest study of giving behaviour in the UK. This year’s report is bigger and better with over 12,000 people interviewed across the UK in 2017, allowing us to look in more detail than ever before at patterns of giving.


The key findings for individual giving in the UK in 2017 are:

  • The total amount given to charity increased to £10.3 billion – however, this is driven by fewer people giving more.
  • The number of people who gave to charity either via donations or sponsoring someone in 2017 decreased from the previous year – led by the decrease in sponsorship.
  • November and December were the peak months for donations to charity whilst June was the peak month for sponsoring someone. 
  • People continued to sign petitions and take part in public demonstrations in 2017 at the high levels seen for the first time in 2016.
  • Despite innovation in charitable giving over the years, cash remains the main way in which people give, although the level has decreased slightly in 2017.
  • Women remain more likely than men to participate in charitable and social activity though the gap is widening rather than narrowing between the two groups.
  • Trust in charity remains an issue with no movement since 2016, with 50% agreeing that charities are trustworthy. Men in particular are most likely to disagree that charities are trustworthy. 
UK Giving 2018 infographic


At an overall level, we see slightly fewer people (88%) reporting to have participated in at least one charitable or social action over the previous year, compared to 89% during 2016. When people are asked about their behaviour in the previous four weeks, there is a notable decrease from last year’s report, with just under two thirds (65%) claiming to have participated in the last four weeks, compared to 68% during 2016. 

Although this is a disappointing movement, it is key to note that both of these levels are still much higher than the level of 79% of people who had participated in the previous year and 57% during the previous four weeks when asked in 2015.
Which, if any, of the following have you done in the last year/four weeks?


We are now in a position where we can look at every month of the calendar year. When we do this, we see clear differences on the peaks for donating vs sponsorship.

It is perhaps of no surprise that sponsorship peaks over the summer months, when many sporting events take place that people obtain sponsorship for including runs and walks of various distances. This peaks at 15% in June but falls to 4% in January. This is a similar pattern to what we saw in 2016.

In terms of donating money, the peak months for giving are November and December at 36% and 37% respectively having donated in the last four weeks compared to an average across all months of 32%. This is again a similar trend to that seen in 2016, when these were the two months with the highest levels of giving and is likely related to various campaigns such as the Poppy Appeal, Movember, and #givingtuesday running in November and the Christmas appeals of December. 

Which, if any, of the following have you done in the four weeks?


The frequency of giving in 2017 was similar to the frequency of giving seen in 2016, with the majority (51%) giving from time to time, a further quarter (25%) giving monthly, and 4% giving weekly. There remains a consistent number giving less regularly, with 13% saying they give to charity rarely and 5% stating that they never give.

Levels of giving from time to time are fairly consistent across all age ranges, but we see that giving regularly (weekly or monthly) is significantly higher among the oldest age group (38% of those aged 65+) and giving rarely or never is significantly higher among the youngest (30% of those aged 16-24).

Which of the following best describes how often you give to charity?


The top five causes donors report donating directly to in the last four weeks remains the same in 2017 as it was in 2016.

Overseas aid and disaster relief remains the fifth most popular cause to donate to in 2017, with nearly a quarter (23%) of donors saying they gave money to the cause. This cause has increased considerably from 19% in 2016.

This rise in giving is likely due to the number of large scale, highly covered international disasters which unfortunately occurred in 2017, including the Rohingya crisis, Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, the earthquake in Mexico, and monsoon flooding and landslides in Bangladesh, Sierra Leone and Colombia.

We have seen in other research that the British population is incredibly generous in response to disaster appeals and this is demonstrated by the levels giving to this cause area in 2017.

Which of the following causes have you given to in the last four weeks?


Amongst donors who gave directly to charity, religious causes once again see by far the largest donations, with a mean donation of £59 in the last four weeks, similar to the £60 mean donation seen in 2016.

This is followed by the arts (£36) and sports and recreation (£29). In 2017 the donations for schools, colleges, universities and other education fell dramatically to £21 from more than double this (£46) in 2016. The reason for this huge drop is unknown and we will continue to monitor what happens to it.

Proportion of total donation amount received by each cause in 2017


Giving using cash continues to be the most common way of giving money to charity, with over half (55%) doing so in 2017. This has however decreased from 58% in 2016. From a policy angle, this means that it is important to bear in mind that any tax reliefs or other schemes, work for cash. It will also be interesting to look at how new cash like forms of digital giving and any new challenges they pose may affect these.

The only other method to change in popularity since 2016 is buying goods which increased from 40% to 43% in 2017, and occupies second place. Buying a lottery ticket remains in third place at 40%. 

In the last 12 months, have you given to charity by any of these methods?


Around half the UK population (51%) agree that charities are trustworthy, a finding that is consistent with 2016, and indicates that trust in charities has remained stable over the year. There is some small fluctuations between months, with trust reaching a peak in August (54%) and a low in December (48%), though on the whole, it remains relatively consistent throughout the year.

To what extent, if at all, do you agree or disagree that most charities are trustworthy?

Want to know more?


Find out who gives to good causes, how people give and which charities are most likely to receive support.

Read the report


UK Giving

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