They say charity is supposed to begin at home but that isn’t necessarily where it should end. According to the latest research fewer people in the UK donated to charity last year than in either of the previous couple of years. Generally speaking, the British are traditionally generous and when compared internationally perform very well in terms of giving.
Amount donated is stable
Last year the total amount donated by the UK was £10.1 billion and that figure has been stable for about ten years and the fact that fewer people were donating cash was offset by the fact that the number of people donating goods rather than cash has remained unchanged. Nevertheless, the fact that 43 per cent of those polled said they had not donated cash to charity over the previous twelve months and just 16 per cent said they donated their time is cause for concern.
Obviously donating to charity is not mandatory and for many people the ideal world would be one where the work they do was not necessary because their needs would be met by both the government and employers. The survey did not record which income groups had ceased donating to charity or their reasons why. However, given the backdrop of rising inequality, homelessness, the growing dependence on food banks along with cuts to health care and other public service, the only positive reason to reduce giving or stop altogether is that charities no longer need the cash, but that cannot be the whole story.
The authors of the report instead there are a combination of reasons behind the drop. Chief among them is a decline in trust following a spate of scandals recently involving charities. Other reasons include stricter data protection and fundraising rules plus a decision by many charities to focus on soliciting donations from existing donors instead of seeking out new ones. Household incomes are also under pressure with 22 per cent of people living in poverty which is a national disgrace.
Can’t fix what has been broken
Whilst there is limited research into academic research available surrounding philanthropy and fundraising, it is widely believed that poor people tend to be more generous than wealthier people in the sense they give a larger proportion of their incomes to charity. Charities cannot fix what has been broken, however since medical research and children are the two of the three most popular good causes with animals in third place, clearly, they have a role to play. The state does not have the resources to fund every single clinical trial and this means that specialists play an important role.
Generosity is a reflection of a healthy society
Over the last ten years there has been tremendous pressure placed on charities and the decline in number of donors is example of this trend with governance and other failures also playing a part. Donors may also feel a sense of pessimism regarding the sheer scale of the problems faced and the difficulties posed in addressing them. However, there should be no illusions about the importance of the organisations and whether or not they are indispensable. A healthy democracy needs a vibrant civil society and strong government with generosity being a healthy impulse.