Donation Figures: No News is Good News?

UK street

Donation Figures: No News is Good News?

This week we're looking at what HASN'T changed in our research with the public in recent months - and what we can learn from which donation figures remain steady and which are subject to change.

Ben Roberts

With the UK now officially in a low-level recession, albeit one which is already being suggested to be over as of this week, this year has already added yet another source of public anxiety around personal finances, and it can’t be understated. For the charity sector, economic difficulties are two-fold: they increase the reliance on charitable services, while also making it more difficult for regular donations to occur. However, what we’ve seen in recent months has been an interesting response to a concerning economy, and not the potentially expected negative shift in public sentiment towards charitable giving.

This week, we’ll be looking at how the public’s relationships with charity have changed through three important figures – number of donors, number of charities supported, and donation size.


Donor figures are largely stable

One of the most basic indicators of the health of the charity sector is to find out what proportion of the public are regular donors. The UK has a robust tradition of charitable giving, and so we have yet to see the figures drop too drastically. What we still haven’t had, however, is a total recovery from 2020’s dip in public donors.

The trend when we ask the public whether they’ve given in the past three months is a downward one, still a strong majority of the public, but a glacially slow shift towards decline. With that being said, the likelihood in our minds is that the current figure – roughly two thirds of the public – who have given recently is unlikely to drop much in the near future, given that this measure has proven the public to be much more consistent in the face of adversity than one might expect.


Number of charities supported

Another consistent figure that we’re happy to be sharing with the sector is that members of the public rarely change the number of charities they support. The average number of charities to support on a regular basis in some way or another is around four, and this has once again been something of an immovable object since we started monitoring this figure. This is with the exception, once again, of the 2020 lockdown which saw the public respond positively towards the needs of many charities who ran emergency appeals that year.

The upshot is that even the cost-of-living crisis has done little to deter the public from providing their support to a variety of charities, meaning that it’s unlikely that people are having to decide which causes to support and which to abandon.


Average donation size has stayed generous

Traditionally, charities have relied on a steady stream of smaller donations. However, what we’ve found is that we might have had a shift towards less frequent but more substantial donations.

But why is this? Well, I know that in my own life during periods when I’ve been less confident about my finances I’ve been keen to avoid signing up for regular payments, fearing that I’d have bitten off more than I could chew down the line. But, I was happy when I had something in my pocket to give a little more to make up for it. Perhaps it’s this on a national scale, with uncertainty of the future driving the public to be more generous when they can. It’s certainly encouraging to imagine that donors are keen to maximise their impact even in periods of economic uncertainty.


The implications of these figures are positive, with the start of this year relaying the idea of a healthy charity sector and continuing positive sentiment towards it. Even so, the shifts that we do see should make charities reflect; in a situation where larger, but less frequent donations are being made the need to strategise has never been more apparent. Charities should anticipate a shift in their traditional income patterns and prepare for a landscape where the emphasis may be on cultivating relationships with donors capable of these making larger, less frequent contributions. Strengthening your relationships and facilitating the opportunities for the public to make these donations is a must in the coming months – we’ll be keeping you posted on how these trends evolve. 


All of this research and more is available through nfpIntelligence - follow the link to find out more.

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