Charitable giving survey finds donors put off by lack of information

Study by New Philanthropy Capital says Britons would give about £700m extra yearly if more sure of charities' impact

London comedians making stereotyped jokes about Scottish stinginess, look away now. Scots give more to charity than the English and a third more than Londoners, a study of the habits and motivations of British philanthropy has revealed.

People living in the south and east of England are giving less than those in poorer areas, according to the donor advisory group New Philanthropy Capital, which produced the study.

The survey of 3,000 donors also found that most Britons do not see giving to charity as a duty. Less than half of those polled said others should give too if they had the means.

The report has sparked fresh concern that charity leaders are failing to prove the effectiveness of their work; the British public, it appears, would give an estimated £700m extra a year in income if they were more convinced their donations were doing good.

The snapshot of British giving comes before the Comic Relief telethon, on Friday, the UK's biggest night of fundraising, and next week's budget in which the chancellor, George Osborne, is expected to encourage charities to fill the space left by retreating public services, with offers of tax breaks for social investment.

"It is quite shocking that so few people feel there is an obligation to give," said Dan Corry, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital. "We have gone through a phase where we have a welfare state, we pay our taxes and we feel we don't give any more. But the world has changed and the government is not going to do as much."

The report calls on charities to tackle two main areas of underperformance identified by donors: the charities' evidence of impact and explanation about how donations are used.

The study found 10% of mainstream donors and 13% of rich donors would give more if charities provided better information.

A further 10% of mainstream donors and 21% of the rich would give more and shift their donations to more persuasive charities. The effect would be a £665m annual boost to charities, the report's authors have calculated.

Fundraisers have said the lack of training for small charities in asking for donations holds the groups back, so they are lobbying the chancellor to increase funding for that purpose.

"There's a political disconnection," said Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, which represents 350 charities. "The government says it wants more and more giving but it needs to help with more asking. The research shows 83% of donors only give because they are asked, so we want the government to invest more in training more charities to be better at fundraising."

The survey, conducted by Ipsos Mori, found Scottish donors from households with incomes lower than £150,000, on average, gave £356 last year. The only English region to give more was the Midlands, with £375. People in London gave £268. In the south and east of England the sum was £276. The smallest donations came from the north-east, with £223.

The Scots' generosity comes despite per capita household incomes in London being 25% higher than in Scotland, according to national statistics.

"People have less disposable income at the moment and yet we continue to be happily surprised by our donors' continued support," said Kirsty Yanik, awareness manager of Alzheimer Scotland, in Edinburgh. "It is time to get away from the old stereotype that Scots won't open their wallet, because that's certainly not the case for charities."

She said Scottish charities might be benefiting from being outside the maelstrom of competitive marketing and fundraising that donors are exposed to in London.

Corry said competition in London could confuse donors and it might be hard to choose between charities. There were, for example, 23 charities registered in England and Wales with autism in their name and eight operated in London.

The average gift from those people categorised as giving over £50 a year from households with an income lower than £150,000, was £303.

The average gift from a high-income household, with more than £150,000 a year, was £1,282.

Donations do not increase in proportion with income. The average donation for a household with an income between £20,000 and £50,000, was £313, while adding an extra £80,000 to £100,000 to the household income only brought the average donation up by £206.

People aged 45 to 54 were giving the least, on average, while those aged over 65 gave the most.

Collection tins remained the most often used way to give, followed by direct debits to charities, then sponsorship.

But hi-tech techniques are gaining traction, with more than a fifth of people aged 18 to 34 donating by text message in the last year. Medical research, children or young people, and hospitals or hospices, were the three most popular causes.


Robert Booth

The GuardianTramp

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