People earning less than £32,000 give on average more than 1 per cent of their income to charity, whereas those on more than £52,000 typically give only 0.8 per cent, according to research by the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Initial findings from the report UK Giving 2011, which will be published before the end of the year, were released at an event in the House of Lords yesterday.
The figures came from a representative survey of more than 3,000 UK adults carried out in June and October 2010 and February 2011.
Speaking at the event, John Low, chief executive of CAF, called for people to give at least 1.5 per cent of their income to charity every year, with the percentage rising for the wealthier.
"We would like to see a widespread ‘giving while living’ pledge led by those in positions of influence, with the wealthy encouraging each other in the way that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and others have shown can work so well," he said.
"We want to see ministers loudly championing and celebrating philanthropy and sending a strong message through their own giving, where business and charity leaders follow suit and where everyone across the UK can play their part."
The event was held to mark the end of the Giving Forum – a group of leaders who continued to discuss philanthropy and giving in the UK after the three-year government-funded Giving Campaign ended in 2004.
In 2004 the campaign concluded that donations to charity should have doubled in real terms by 2014. The NCVO and CAF estimate that since then the total amount given to charity in real terms has increased by only 15.2 per cent since 2004.