Monday 19 November 2012

Britain: Not So Charitable

Some worrying news from the Third Sector. A survey by the Charitable Aid Foundation has shown that charitable donations dropped by 20% in real term in 2011.

It's double trouble for charities. People are giving less, and fewer people are giving. The numbers make for depressing reading. The total sum given to UK charities fell from £11bn to £9.3bn during 2011-12, the largest cash drop in the survey's eight-year history. The proportion of people donating to charitable causes in a typical month fell from 58% to 55%. The median amount donated was £10 in 2011-12, down from £11 the previous year and £12 in 2009-10. It's a steep downward drop with no sign of relief for cash-strapped charities.

The reasons for the steep cut in donations are pretty obvious. The double-dip recession has everyone looking carefully at the bank balance, and charities are usually one of the first things to go when you're tightening your belt. But there's a troublesome Catch-22 at the heart of all this. Government cut-backs are provably aimed at the least-able to cope. The help they need is coming from charities who are increasingly being instructed to stop up the shortfall--at the same time as their funding is being brutally cut, and the vital revenue that donations provide is quickly ebbing away.

It's a little to early to tell if the figures constitute a trend. We can only hope not, because the consequences of a donation line falling inexorably towards zero are frankly too horrible to contemplate.

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