What are people thinking during COVID-19 in terms of giving?


Susan Pinkney


Susan Pinkney, CAF’s Head of Research, looks at what the latest research is telling us.

How are charities and the act of giving being viewed during the coronavirus pandemic? With much of the world in lockdown, and many of the year’s biggest charity events and fundraisers cancelled or postponed, CAF has gauged how the public is responding.

As part of our ongoing polling work with YouGov, we used our late March survey to ask the general public questions around charitable giving and COVID-19. By way of context, this survey was carried out just after the UK Government introduced new 14 day self-isolation guidance for any household where someone was unwell through to just after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his 23 March televised address to the nation that brought in widespread lockdown measures.

These results show us that just over one in five (22 per cent) people say they will donate more to charity as a result of the crisis, but this is slightly offset by the 14 per cent who say they will donate less.

Unsurprisingly, working age people reported that they will be giving less money to charity and are the most likely to say they are very worried about their finances. Indeed, according to Savanta research conducted over the weekend of March 28-29, 42 per cent of people said COVID-19 has already decreased their disposable income, a rise of 5 percentage points in just over a week. YouGov separately found that a third of people are worried that they might miss a bill payment in the next six months. Amid this backdrop, fundraising income from individuals to charitable causes is an immediate concern as people facing sudden and wholly unexpected financial pressures hunker down to look after their family finances as best they can.

The research that CAF has carried out also asked where people are likely to donate to in the next three months because of the crisis, and we see that NHS charities come out on top at 40 per cent. Around a third (34 per cent) say they will give to local charities but only 13 per cent are likely to donate to international charities as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. As we have often noted in our annual UK Giving reports, previous research tells us that when there is a natural disaster abroad, the UK public rally to give and donations to international charities always rise to meet the need. However, with the coronavirus crisis now on the UK’s own doorstep, it appears that for the time being, people plan to give their money locally, either to NHS-associated charities, other frontline help or local charities.

Separately, CAF has asked our many charity partners across the UK to give us a sense of how they are faring amid the crisis. Our most recent poll of 503 charities, conducted 7-8 April, found that without Government assistance one in three (33 per cent) said they would be unable to continue in their current form for six months, while half of all charities told us they would need to curtail their work within a year.

When asked how many are likely to have to close their doors entirely, 14 per cent said they wouldn’t last six months, while 29 per cent said they could go on for a year.

These results came before the Government announced its package of measures for the charity sector on 8 April and our research team will be keeping tabs to gauge what relief the government’s aid package (valued at £750million) can bring to charities as many struggle with shrinking income at a time of increased demand.

At CAF, we are also pulling together a dedicated COVID-19 insight section on our website that will chart some of the key findings as they become available. The aim is to help colleagues both in the UK and abroad to easily access the latest research, giving trends and analysis from our policy colleagues.  It will be accessible via our dedicated research page here.

Links to publicly available research on public sentiment around the crisis

Susan Pinkney is Head of Research at Charities Aid Foundation

Tagged in: Covid-19

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