Donation trends during the cost-of-living crisis

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Donation trends during the cost-of-living crisis

This week, we're looking at shifting donor habits and finding out how the cost-of-living crisis has changed the way the public want to engage with charities.

Ben Roberts

Across the UK, the public are continuing to struggle under the cost-of-living crisis. This week saw the news break that food prices had increased at their fastest rate for 45 years, and the Mayor of London issued a warning about public unrest on a large scale as a result of financial insecurity. The knock-on effect to the charity sector has already been felt, almost immediately compounding on the disruption that was felt during and after the pandemic, and for some charities, it’s difficult to know what to expect from the public in the coming months.


Giving trends

Our research into public habits have shown us that the spirit of giving is alive, but struggling. Asking the public whether they’ve given to a charity in the past 3 months, 65% said yes. This figure is encouraging; far from an all-time high, but a steady rise since July of last year.

What has changed is the number of charities a person is likely to be supporting. Based on our current figures, a member of the public is likely to have supported 3.3 charities in the past 3 months, one of our lowest figures since we began recording. This means that the average person is more likely to be particular about where they put the limited pot that they have set aside for charitable giving, and charities must do more to vie for the attention of the person in the street to be considered for their donation. 


How have personal finances been affected?

Our latest research shows that the public is experiencing a significant cutback mentality when it comes to charity support. We’ve calculated that the public reported giving 14% less in the past year than they’d have been able to previously, and based on their own estimates, we are looking at a net decrease of 13% in the coming year in expected giving. 

Where we’ve asked about savings, 40% of the public indicate that theirs have decreased in the past year, compared to only 19% who have seen an increase. Of particular importance to local charities is that the North of England is the area most likely to report lower savings.

Despite this, some methods of giving are seeing an increase in recent months. For example, we’ve seen that charity shop use is on the up. While the increased number of shoppers in these stores may be a result of a thrifty mindset, its unmistakable that the public is also keen to help charities as well, as we’ve seen a significant rise in donation to these stores as well.


Which sectors are doing well?

Thanks to shifting priorities, certain charity sectors have seen changes in how much support they can expect from the public. For instance, we’ve seen a continuation of the gradual downturn in popularity for children’s charities, while there’s been a resurgence in support for cancer charities. 
This resurgence has come largely from the older generations, while Millennials and Gen Z have priorities elsewhere. For instance, mental health charities can expect more love from these younger generations. Social welfare and homelessness also rank highly among these demographics, as well as conservation, which has risen in cultural importance in younger people (for more on this, consider reading our report on climate activism). 

These changes are slow to enact themselves even despite the poor financial situation that many members of the public have found themselves experiencing. While some charities may have found themselves having lost favour in recent months or years, the declines that we see are thankfully slow enough to plan for.


The shifts in our latest research indicate that in the past year, while the public has been widely impacted by the cost-of-living crisis, cutback culture isn’t the only impactor on charities’ fundraising efforts. By keeping aware of the changes in public behaviours and attitudes, we hope that charities throughout the UK and Ireland will be able to weather the storm that’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future – watch this space for more insights into how these changing attitudes develop. 

For more information about our research with the public, consider downloading a briefing pack below.

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