Public donated an additional £800m to charity during first lockdown

Donors shifted support to charities supporting the NHS while other popular causes saw falls in donations, new research says

NHS charities benefited from public generosity in the first months of the pandemic. Photo Anthony Devlin/Getty Images
NHS charities benefited from public generosity in the first months of the pandemic. Photo Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Donors gave £800m more than usual to charity during the UK’s spring lockdown, but some charities have still lost out on hundreds of millions of pounds, according to new research from the Charities Aid Foundation.

Between January and June 2020, members of the public donated a total of £5.4bn to charity, according to CAF's UK Giving: Covid-19 Special Report.

The research demonstrates that despite the public feeling anxious about their household finances early in the pandemic, they did not give less to charity.

The organisation said the levels of household giving that took place during the first months of lockdown are normally reserved for the peak seasonal fundraising months of November and December.

Other key findings of the report included a large increase in the number of people donating to, or sponsoring, ‘hospitals and hospices’ during the height of the pandemic’s first wave. One in five people reported donating to charities which support the NHS.

The number of people giving via a website or app increased significantly over the same period (from 13 to 24 per cent), while cash donations, normally the most popular way of giving, dropped off substantially between March (34 per cent) and April (13 per cent).

Trust in charities also increased year on year across all age groups and social grades.

Positively for the sector, at the end of April, more people than usual reported that they intended to donate more in the next 12 months.

However, the report also found that some charities suffered unprecedented losses, as donors shifted their donations to charities supporting the NHS, and fundraising opportunities disappeared.

Medical research charities are among the hardest hit by this shift, losing out on an estimated £174m in the first six months of 2020.

Additional research by the Association of Medical Research Charities found many face cuts to their research investment of 41 per cent over the next year alone – a predicted £310m shortfall.

Other causes that are normally among the most popular also experienced large drops in donations, including animal charities, and those supporting children and young people.

Neil Heslop, chief executive of CAF, said: “There has never been a time in living memory when we have collectively been more aware of the value of charity in our lives and that is clearly borne out in this CAF report and in the generosity of the British people.

“It is also our sincere hope that these extraordinary levels of giving serve as inspiration and reminds us of what is possible when people come together to support the causes closest to their hearts.”


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