An estimated 1.6 million fewer people gave to charity in 2020 than the previous year, although the overall amount donated increased, according to latest research from Charities Aid Foundation.
CAF published the UK Giving Report 2021 today, which found that the proportion of people giving money has fallen for the fifth year in a row to less than two-thirds.
However, due to an increase the average size of donations, total giving was slightly up on the previous year to £11.3bn (2019: £10.6bn).
The pandemic has also prompted a collapse in cash giving, increased used of digital channels and other changes to donor behaviour.
CAF highlights that November and December 2020, which are normally important giving months, were particularly sluggish.
An online survey gathers data from around 1,000 people each month.
Neil Heslop, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “While we rightly celebrate a rise in the total amount given to charity over the course of 2020, there has been a worrying trend over the last five years that the number of people donating continues to decline, despite the tremendous generosity we have all witnessed during the pandemic.
“Although those who give are giving more, we know that for charities to survive and be there for those they help, they rely on mass giving.
“It is heartening to note that even as people worry about household finances in uncertain times, giving to charity remains integral to the lives of millions.”
Fall in donors
The number of people giving to charity has fallen from 69% in 2016 to 62% in 2020 and CAF estimates that in the last year alone this is means there were 1.6 million fewer donors.
Researchers attribute the latest fall to the pandemic, when social distancing made some fundraising activity impossible. But CAF says that early data for 2021 suggest donations levels remained low even as things began to open up.
Initially there was a “flurry of fundraising activity”, CAF said. But this did not last beyond the first few months.
November, usually the biggest month for giving in the UK, saw a 10 percentage point fall in the proportion of people giving, from 40% in 2019 to 30% in 2020.
The report says: “The scaling back of regular UK fundraising fixtures, such as the Poppy Appeal and Children in Need, likely contributed to the decline.”
Average donation up
Those who do give are donating larger amounts, and are more likely to opt for Gift Aid.
The average donation was £53.52 via donations or sponsorship, compared to £45.69 in 2019, despite around one-third of donors saying that the pandemic had hit their own household’s disposable income.
Meanwhile, CAF recorded the highest proportion of people opting in to Gift Aid, with 55% of donors using the service that means the government adds an extra 25% to the donations of UK taxpayers.
CAF suggests this is partly because of the increase in online giving.
The report says: “The pandemic initially drove increasing numbers of donors online. With many charity websites encouraging donors to ‘giftaid it’ as part of their online donation, the pandemic may have indirectly had the effect of widening the use of the scheme.”
Cash giving ‘all but disappeared’
In 2019, around half (51%) of donors made a donation via cash, but in 2020 this fell to just 38% of donors.
CAF said cash giving “all but disappeared” during lockdowns.
In January 2021 just 7% of donations were cash, compared to between 30% and 40% in a typical year.
The report also found that donation platforms were more popular than charity’s own website.
“Donors who gave via a website or app in 2020 tended to do so through a third-party website such as JustGiving or Virgin Money Giving (61%); this is in line with previous years. Around half (49%) of online donors gave directly via the charity’s website and 17% gave via social media,” the report says.
Changes to donations habits
More than a third reported making at least one change to their donation habits, with 13% now supporting a charity that helps the NHS.
Other changes reported include adding a charity to their will (5%) and donating to a non-charity appeal to support the pandemic response (5%).
CAF found a significant fall in support for disability charities, with 14% of people donating to disability causes in 2019, but just 10% doing so in 2020.
“It appears that this was a result of the coronavirus pandemic; donations made during the first three-months of 2020 were consistent with previous years, but then the proportion donating to this cause almost halved between March and April from 15% to 8%. There has been only a slight recovery in 2021,” the report says.