Londoners 'donating less time and money' than five years ago, report claims

The think tank Centre for London also claims that charitable activity is unevenly spread around the capital, but the Third Sector Research Centre questions some of its conclusions

London: 'whole-city' approach recommended
London: 'whole-city' approach recommended

Londoners are donating less time and money than they were five years ago, a report on philanthropy in the capital has claimed.

The report, More, Better, Together: A Strategic Review of Giving in London, published by the think tank Centre for London today, also says that charitable activity is unevenly spread around the city.

It calls for a "whole-city" approach to coordinating giving across London and says an annual London Giving Day should be established to encourage more donations.

But John Mohan, deputy director of the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham, which contributed research for the report, questioned some of the conclusions it draws.

The report says that the proportion of Londoners who give to charity regularly fell from 81 per cent in 2012/13 to 73 per cent in the financial year 2017/18, two percentage points lower than the rest of England.

The proportion of Londoners who volunteer at least once a month also fell by three percentage points over the same period, to 21 per cent.

And the report says that although the number of charities focused on local causes has increased in some inner-London boroughs – including Hackney, where charity numbers have risen by 7 per cent in the five years to 2015, and Tower Hamlets (8 per cent) – most had experienced a fall, particularly outer-London boroughs such as Croydon (down 7 per cent) and Kingston (5 per cent).

The report says: "The decline in local outer-London borough charities is particularly concerning given that London’s economic geography is changing, with poverty spreading from its heartlands in ‘old London’ to the outer boroughs."

Local government cuts are likely to be an important factor in the decline of London-focused charities, the report says.

But Mohan told Third Sector that London boroughs were often quite small geographically, so many charities were likely to say they did not focus only on their immediate localities.

"In most of the country, about four out of five charities operate within one local authority," he said. "In London, it’s about half. That is the real reason for what looks like a smaller number of charities focused on local needs.

"Cuts in public funding are blamed for the fall in locally focused charities, but that cannot be the whole explanation, because charities in inner London have been more reliant on public funding."

He said other research had shown that 50 per cent of charities in central London and 25 to 30 per cent of outer-London charities had received state funding.

Ben Rogers, director of Centre for London, said the decline in giving and volunteering was in contrast to the generosity Londoners displayed when galvanised by events such as the Grenfell Tower fire.

"We know that people and organisations are more likely to give when they are confident that their time and money will be well-directed," Rogers said. "That's why we think the greatest opportunity lies in encouraging a more joined-up approach to giving across the city."

The report proposes that public sector, business and civic organisations come together to develop a "whole-city" approach, which would include the Mayor’s office joining with councils and funders to develop a more detailed understanding of need across the city, promoting legacy giving among property owners and supporting small local charities to build their fundraising capacity.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, who sat on the advisory board for the project, said: "This is the best piece of research I have seen on how to increase place-based giving in the UK.

"Although focused on London, there are lessons for every city in the UK in relation to gathering the evidence, convening leaders from all sectors and being more proactive at engaging and directing philanthropy to meet specific, identified needs."

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