Younger generations are failing to give as much to charities as the over-60s, which could lead to a "long-term giving crisis", according to a report by the Charities Aid Foundation.
More than half of all donations to charities now come from the over-60s, compared with just over a third 30 years ago. The over-60s are now more than twice as likely to give to charity as the under-30s.
The study, conducted by Professor Sarah Smith of the University of Bristol, warns that charities face a "donation deficit" in the years to come if action is not taken to ensure that younger generations match the generosity of those born between 1925 and 1945 and in the post-war baby boom between 1945 and 1966.
The research found that the gap between the donations made by the over-60s and under-30s has widened sharply during the past 30 years, raising fears that donations will fall when the older generations start to die and members of Generation X (1965-1981) and Generation Y (1982-1999) reach retirement.
In 1980, 29 per cent of the over-60s had given to charity, compared with 23 per cent of those under 30. But 30 years later, 32 per cent of people over 60 said they had given to charities in the past fortnight, compared with only 16 per cent of the under-30s.
CAF is calling for action to tackle the potential long-term donation deficit. It wants young people to be educated about the value of giving as part of the National Curriculum and to be encouraged to volunteer and undertake work placements for charities. They should also be encouraged to become trustees, it says.
CAF also wants a national online Gift Aid registration scheme to be created to "bring Gift Aid into the digital age" and says workplace giving should be encouraged by reforming payroll giving and putting philanthropy at the heart of business. US-style ‘living legacies’ should be introduced to help people to give their wealth to charity during their lifetime rather than waiting to leave it to good causes in their will, says the report.
John Low, chief executive of CAF, said: "The generosity of Britain’s older generation continues to be remarkable – and many charities today depend heavily on their support. The worrying fact is that people from Generation X and Generation Y are simply not giving to the same extent.
"We need clear steps to be taken in order to build up the culture of giving among younger people, to ensure that Britain continues to support the causes we all care about in the decades to come."