Philanthropists donated £33.5m more to community foundations in 2008/09 than they did the previous year, according to figures released yesterday.
The research by the Community Foundation Network, which represents the UK's 57 community foundations, showed that foundations recruited 471 new donors in 2008/09, helping to bring the total amount generated for grass-roots organisations to £56m during the year.
Stephen Hammersley, chief executive of the Community Foundation Network, said the figure showed people were more willing to help their local communities in difficult times.
However, grant-making by community foundations fell by 15 per cent compared with the previous year because of a decline in the amount of money awarded to foundations from statutory funds. This was due mainly to the closure of the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Local Network Fund.
There are now 1,765 major charitable funds worth more than £5,000 managed by community foundations. They have an average value of just below £80,000.
"Increasing the number of donors contributing to strengthening communities in the current economic circumstances has been a tremendous achievement," said Hammersley.
"It shows that in times of trouble the British people are ready to put their hands in their pockets to put something back into their local communities.
"It means that as we come out of recession local community giving has the potential to underpin the recovery and to make a real difference across the country."