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Management Series: charity

The new state of donation - Three decades of household giving to charity 1978 – 2008

This report presents a comprehensive analysis of the main trends in giving to charity over the period from 1978 to 2008 using data from the government’s Living Costs and Food survey.

Author(s): Edd Cowley - University of Bristol; Cathy Pharoah - Cass Business School; Tom McKenzie - Cass Business School; Sarah Smith - University of Bristol

Giving to charity is perceived as one of the significant ways in which people express their concern for others and get actively engaged in meeting community needs. For government and policy-makers, levels of individual giving are one indicator of involvement in building the Big Society, and are of increasing importance as a source of support for voluntary and community organisations at a time when statutory funding is being cut back. Against this background, this report presents a comprehensive analysis of the main trends in giving to charity over the period from 1978 to 2008 using data from the government's Living Costs and Food survey.

The report is about giving among the general household population - it excludes major donors since they are not captured by the survey. The survey information on spending (including charitable giving) also covers a two-week period and consequently we are likely to under-report the proportion of people who ever give to charity in a year. The main strength of the survey, however, is that it gives reliable, consistent information on charitable giving over a long period of time, allowing us to examine the main trends in giving, as well as detailed information on household member characteristics that can shed light on the drivers of change.

The period saw marked social, technological, political and economic change, including evolving family and household structures (ONS, 2009), changes in government, the rapid rise of smart card and online financial transactions, the explosion of global communications and social media, and recently what many consider the deepest recession since World War 2.

The key questions we address are:

  • What proportion of households give to charity and how much do they give and how have participation and generosity changed over the period?
  • What are the main economic and social factors that affect giving?
  • What messages for future giving can be learned from a study of long-term trends and the factors which might influence them?

This report updates and builds on an earlier analysis of giving using the same data source over the period 1974-96 (Banks and Tanner, 1997). It can be downloaded at the link below.

This research was carried out as a joint project between the Centre for Market and Public Ogranisation (CMPO) at the University of Bristol and Spoke 3 of the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) at Cass Business School.

Attachment(s)
{The New State of Donation: Three decades of household giving to charity}{https://www.cass.city.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/366954/new-state-of-donation.pdf}
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