CAF defends extra £800m donation claim after criticism

The Charities Aid Foundation has defended its latest piece of research after it was accused of producing “counterintuitive” results.

Last week, CAF released a report that concluded £800m more than usual had been given to charity during the UK’s spring lockdown.

But in a blog post Joe Saxton, co-founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, criticises CAF's methodology and outlines how it “flows against the tide of almost every other research carried out in Covid” and should be “treated with an abundance of caution”.

Saxton highlights that there is no corroborating evidence to support CAF’s research, the challenge of social desirability bias, and how its analysis says median donation is more important, despite the total donation figures being based on average donations.

He said: “The problem is that their calculations for the total amount given are based not on the median but on the average donation. Strange really to praise median values but then to use averages for the calculation.”

In addition, Saxton said he was concerned with how wide the confidence in the data levels were.

“For our own data on giving, the confidence intervals of 95 per cent would have a range of £7.5bn to £8.4bn. This means that a variation of several hundred million pounds is well within the confidence intervals,” he said.

It would have been too easy to ignore CAF’s research, said Saxton, who described the results as “extraordinary, and counterintuitive”.

He said: “They singularly fail to add in any of the caveats or footnotes about how the research results should be viewed. 

“We would hate the government to think they don’t need to help charities because the public are giving more: not least when the research is of uncertain quality and shows an increase only in two months of this year,” he said.

CAF said its research had found that charities working across many cause areas had seen a drastic reduction in fundraising income, most notably sponsorship funding that would normally flow to medical research charities.

Increased household giving to some causes by no means detracted from the lost income faced by so many charities, it said.

A CAF spokesperson said: “While constructive scrutiny of CAF’s independently verified research is more than fair and always welcome, we are somewhat reluctant to engage with a piece of commentary that appears intent on undermining valuable insight into charitable giving in the UK at such an important moment.”

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