Voluntary income at the largest charities fell consistently through the past year, data from the Charity Finance 100 and 250 Indexes reveals.
For Civil Society Media's Charity Finance 100 Index this income stream dropped by 272 points over 2019, while the Charity Finance 250 Index saw a 311-point fall. Both indexes reported a decrease in voluntary income every quarter of the year.
Donations make up the majority of the voluntary income, but some other non-restricted funds are also included.
In the fourth quarter alone, the 100 Index recorded a decrease of 146 points in the voluntary stream. This was largely due to double-digit falls at the British Red Cross and Save the Children.
Save the Children said in its annual report that its decrease was because during 2018 it had invested less in fundraising and more in “activities that were more profitable or will lead to greater income in the future such as legacies, regional corporates, events and philanthropy.”
Voluntary income at the British Red Cross dropped by 31 per cent to £88.1m, due to a reduction in restricted appeals income which had been received for the Grenfell Tower Fire, the Manchester Arena and London Bridge terrorist attacks in 2017.
However, its trustees also noted a long-term downward trend in unrestricted regular giving. This income stream has fallen from £50.2m in 2014 to £39.7m in 2018.
The 250 index reported a 224 point decrease in voluntary income for the fourth quarter. Of the 51 charities in the 250 Index that reported receiving vountary income this quarter, 27 reported a fall, including ActionAid, Allchurches Trust, Christian Vision, Diabetes UK, Médecins Sans Frontières UK, Power of Nutrition and United Synagogue.
The charity reporting the biggest drop was the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, where its total income as a whole fell by 72 per cent to £14.6m for the year to December 2018.
The Foundation’s principal funder is the Lloyds Banking Group, which donates a share of its profits to the charity each year. This share actually increased in 2018 and is expected to increase again in 2019. The income decline was instead as a result of a one-off event in 2017 when the Foundation sold shares it held in Lloyds Banking Group.
In terms of total income, the two indexes reported growth over the past year, at eight points for the 100 index and 122 points for the 250 index.
The other streams that the indexes measure are legacy, charitable activities, investment and gross trading. Data and analysis from the indexes appear every month in Charity Finance. More information about how they are compiled can be found here.