Why Consumers Give to Charity
New research sheds light on which charities consumers are most likely to donate to, why they don’t give, and how to engage more young people with good causes.
Charitable giving is part of the fabric of British society and, for most UK consumers, it is embedded habitual behaviour. Almost nine out of 10 British adults have some kind of interaction with a charity, whether it be through volunteering, donating money or goods, or sponsoring someone. But what makes people give up their time or money? What are the issues they care most about? And how do they like to get involved in their chosen causes?
Research from YouGov, which includes data from the Charities Aid Foundation 2019 UK Giving Report, sets out to answer these questions. Among its key findings are:
While the vast majority interact with charities or support them in some way, 29% have never given money to one. The most common reason (cited by 32% of these people) is that they think charities spend too much money on administration rather than the causes they support. This is closely followed by those who can’t afford to give (29%) and who give in other ways (28%).
Only a very small minority don’t give because they don’t believe in doing so, or because they think charities should be supported by the state through taxation instead (both 7%). Yet 20% of those who have never donated say they are likely to do so in the future, suggesting at least a fifth could be swayed by charities’ marketing.
The most common category of charity that people support, unsurprisingly, is health and medicine. Among those who have donated in the past three months, 32% have given to one of these organizations. Almost as many people (27%) have given to an animal-related charity. These come just ahead of charities focusing on children and young people (25%), but some distance ahead of the next most popular categories – disability (13%) and poverty/international development (12%).
Cancer charities have a big lead in terms of consideration among ad hoc donors. This could perhaps be because of the emotive nature of the cause they support or equally because of their success in building their brands.
Asked which charities they would donate to, if they could give £1 to a single charity, 17% opt for Macmillan Cancer Support and 16% for Cancer Research UK. This puts them at least 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals – Shelter, RNLI and the Royal British Legion (all 6%).
The gap is similar when ad hoc donors have the choice to give to multiple charities, but the consideration set changes, with British Heart Foundation and Marie Curie entering the top five at the expense of Shelter and the Royal British Legion.
Those aged 16 to 24 are much less likely than the average adult to donate money and goods to charity, and slightly more likely to give up their time. This may not be a surprise, given they tend to have less wealth and fewer domestic responsibilities, but it doesn’t necessarily mean young people are less engaged with good causes.
Only 46% have donated money in the past year (versus 57% of all UK adults) and 31% have given goods (versus 56%), but 53% have signed a petition (versus 49%), 20% have volunteered (versus 16%) and 9% have attended a demonstration or protest (versus 6%), all of which arguably require more commitment and understanding of the issues involved.
To harness the enthusiasm of young volunteers, most of whom are students, charity brands would be best advised to offer them a challenge to accomplish, as 68% say they find joy in this.