UK charity donations not reaching areas of greatest need, research finds

Local authorities should take a more active role in targeting charitable donations at local needs, a report says

Charitable activity in the UK is failing to reach the areas of greatest need, a new report warns.

Research from the think tank Centre for Cities says fewer and smaller donations are being made in the most deprived areas compared with other regions. 

The report draws on data from various sources, including responses to the Understanding Society national survey of about 40,000 UK households, data on online donations and direct debits and HM Revenue & Customs’ self assessment tax returns. 

It says the north of England, the West Midlands and Wales have the highest deprivation rates in the UK. But Wales, Yorkshire and the West Midlands have the smallest donations made to local causes per donor, the report says.

North-east England has the most support for local causes per donor, with 46 per cent of the value of donations supporting local action.

This amounts to £88 given to local causes per donor, compared with less than £75 donated per head in the more deprived areas of Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Wales.

Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Wales have similar proportions of people donating to local causes compared with London, despite having higher local need, the report says. Just under 30 per cent of donors give to local causes in these areas.

People in north-east England were found to be the most generous with their earnings overall. Residents in Middlesbrough gave double the proportion of their income to charity compared with people living in the affluent London areas of Chelsea and Fulham.

Those in south-east England with typical incomes were also 15 per cent less likely to donate to charity compared with those across the rest of the UK in the same income bracket, it adds.

The report also found that the causes donated to did not match the local needs of each region. 

Donors in the less affluent areas of Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Wales are more likely to support local animal and environmental charities than those helping to alleviate local poverty, with the report saying that donations in these regions fail to reflect the needs of their communities.

Local poverty charities were most popular with London donors, despite this being the region with the lowest local deprivation.

London is home to more local charities focused on poverty-related causes than less affluent regions, the report found, after researchers analysed data available on the charity register.

Wales has more local charities supporting animal welfare and the environment than those focused on poverty-related causes, it adds.

The report recommends that local authorities should take a more active role in targeting charitable donations at local needs. 

In a survey commissioned for the report, 56 per cent of 3,026 UK residents said that a broad local fund, such as the Mayor’s Charity run by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, would encourage them to give to local causes.

It also recommends that national and local charities form levelling-up charity partnerships to combine knowledge and resources to reach deprived people in areas where local people are less likely to donate to charity.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said that the “mismatch” between local ability to give and local economic needs was well known.

“The ability to donate and get involved is ultimately related to income so, to address it, we need economic growth and income growth everywhere, he said. This would give everyone the increased chance to give to local causes.

“More can also be made of the donations that are given – from a levelling-up perspective – by channelling a greater share of them to local issues related to economic deprivation. 

“Local authorities, by raising awareness and helping to direct giving, can help people living in an area target their generosity towards issues where their help is needed most.”

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