An estimated 1.6 million fewer people in the UK donated to charity last year but the total amount given went up by about £700m.
The Charities Aid Foundation’s UK Giving Report 2021, published today, shows 62 per cent of people said they gave to charity in 2020 compared with 65 per cent in the previous year.
CAF said that although the figure has been in steady decline since 2016, when it was 69 per cent, the latest drop was likely to have been down to the large-scale cancellation of fundraising events because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the report says that although the proportion of people who had given to charity was down, a surge in support for charities in response to the outbreak resulted in an estimated £11.3bn being donated in 2020, up from £10.6bn in the previous year.
It says that people gave an average of £53.52 via donations or sponsorship in any given month in 2020, up from £45.69 in the previous year, despite more than a third of people saying they have personally experienced a fall in their household’s disposable income because of the pandemic.
The report does note, however, that £5.4bn was donated in the first half of 2020 but that fell to an estimated £4.6bn in 2021 despite the easing of most restrictions.
CAF said the report was the largest study of giving behaviour and was based on about 22,000 monthly online interviews in 2020 and 2021.
It found that donation levels were “especially low” during the 2020 festive period, which is usually a peak time of charitable giving.
In November 2020, 32 per cent of people said they had made a donation in the previous four weeks, down from 43 per cent a year earlier.
Researchers found that older people gave more while the amounts donated by their younger counterparts declined.
The average donation, not including sponsorship, by people aged between 55 and 64-years-old was £71 in 2020, up from £45 in the previous year, while among 16 to 24-year-olds the figure went down from £46 in 2019 to £29 last year.
There was a large decrease in the proportion of people who donated cash, down from 51 per cent in 2019 to 38 per cent last year. CAF said the downward trend in cash giving had continued into 2021.
Neil Heslop, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “While we rightly celebrate a rise in the total amount given to charity over the course of 2020, there has been a worrying trend over the last five years that the number of people donating continues to decline, despite the tremendous generosity we have all witnessed during the pandemic.
“Although those who give are giving more, we know that for charities to survive and be there for those they help, they rely on mass giving.”
“It is heartening to note that even as people worry about household finances in uncertain times, giving to charity remains integral to the lives of millions.”