Gift Aid in the UK: What's Behind the Decline in Awareness?

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Gift Aid in the UK: What's Behind the Decline in Awareness?

Awareness of Gift Aid has been decreasing steadily since 2010, but why? This week, we explore what can be done to bring more awareness of this scheme to the demographics who aren't engaging with it.

Ben Roberts

I stopped growing when I was about 17 years old, but then at 21 – incredibly – I found myself an inch taller. I’d been happy enough with my height beforehand, but was even happier with a bit extra. The only issue was that I was now finding some of my clothes could fit better. It was time to donate to my local charity shop. Donating my pre-loved clothes was the first time I’d ever been made aware of Gift Aid. I was thrilled. Just like with my growth spurt, I’d been happy enough beforehand, but was even happier with a bit extra.

Of course, applying Gift Aid to donated goods was more involved than applying it to a cash donation, but I was amazed I’d never heard of it before. Charities can claim 25p per pound donated by UK taxpayers; why wasn’t this being talked about?

I’ve come to learn that I’m not the only one who missed the boat on Gift Aid. Our research shows that in 2010, 72% of the public could identify the correct definition of Gift Aid, but this has dropped drastically over the years. As of December 2022, this figure has fallen to only 44%.

This has significant implications for the sector. Gift Aid is a significant stream for funding, but low awareness can almost certainly be tied to a reduction in usage of the scheme. Recent figures from the Charity Aid Foundation support this, revealing that 46% of people did not use Gift Aid for their donations last year. This is a needless loss for the sector, and one that we need to tackle. But where to start?

The biggest obstacle we see in our data is the lack of awareness among young people. Among the 16-24 demographic, 57% told us that they had heard of Gift Aid. However, among these respondents, only 22% could then identify the correct definition. Compare this to 92% and 75% for the same questions as answered by the 65+ demographic, and it becomes very evident that we’re dealing with a generational issue.

This lack of engagement with charities and Gift Aid isn’t simply a product of these donors’ age – our long-term research suggests that older generations were more involved in charity when they were in Gen Z’s current age bracket. The sector has been slow to shift its attention towards the next generation of donors, but without a comprehensive strategy to impart on them the benefits of schemes like Gift Aid, its likely that we will continue to lose them as potential supporters.

Partial automation of the Gift Aid process, which can be achieved using sites like Just Giving, are an easy way to encourage more uptake. But the downside is that donors may fail to understand exactly what Gift Aid is if the process isn’t explained explicitly during this process. Charities should not wait for donors to arrive to their sites, much less wait for them to be mid-donation, before informing them about Gift Aid. Instead, a more thorough inclusion of the benefits needs to be made clear in the marketing and messaging of charities across the UK.

With a combined effort, the next generation can be educated on the benefits of Gift Aid. Not only would this result in more uptake for the scheme, but may also encourage Gen Z away from disintermediation, a topic we’ve covered recently, by showing them that they could do more by giving to registered charities and not personal appeals. After all – who wouldn’t want to see a little extra on top?

Submitted by Vanessa (not verified) on 17 Feb 2023


You are absolutely right, we don't shout out about Gift Aid enough. Never see anything on social media about Gift Aid for any charity, let alone our own. Will definitely add this to our digital marketing campaigns. Thanks

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