Reframing the ask (2021)

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Cathy Pharoah, Visiting Professor, Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, Bayes Business School

Dr. Tom McKenzie, CBS International Business School and University of Dunde2



Executive summary

This is the second paper commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising on the wider socio-economic trends shaping giving and fundraising in the post-COVID recovery period.

It focuses on new data on individual and household giving, on the use of giving tax reliefs and on pandemic changes in consumer behaviour likely to have a lasting influence on how we give. The report identifies key indicators and pointers for charities’ future financial planning, and highlights some fundraising implications.

Key research findings

Future economic outlook

Issues for fundraising

Key factors include:

  • What are the underlying models of where giving decisions are made, at household or individual levels, or both? how do these models affect the fundraising pitch, including choice of channel such as email, TV, social media, text, post or telephone?
  • How are the donor’s post-pandemic employment opportunities being affected?
  • Overall household spending capacity in relation to age and stage in the life-cycle.
  • Effect of donor age on lifestyle choices: for example, will older age-groups remain wary about resuming pre-Lockdown leisure activities, and therefore continue to have savings, which could potentially be diverted to charitable giving?
  • Are younger consumer choices shifting towards the ethical market, meaning charities’ ethics and values should have a higher profile in fundraising?
  • How should older, wealthier donors be approached, who spend and give the most by amount, but do not devote the highest proportion of spending to charity?
  • Marked regional/national inequalities in spending and giving potential.

1. Introduction - balancing caution and opportunity

The contours of a new fundraising landscape are emerging in the wake of the pandemic. An environment of economic uncertainty as the country faces unprecedented levels of debt, along with rapid technological development, growing concerns around climate change and social justice are likely to shape the future of giving in significant ways. Consumer behaviour and lifestyles changed significantly during the pandemic and some of this is going to stick. This means that major challenges for fundraisers lie in the key directions of change, and their likely extent and pace, and in prioritising investment in multiple potential new opportunities. This report does not assess current trends in the different fundraising channels, techniques or sub-sectors but brings together available evidence and new research to map out key elements in the wider context for future giving and to inform strategy.

Unsteady ground

Charities are on unsteady financial ground now (like many other businesses). The cushioning effect of the lockdown subsidies and emergency funds received from government or foundations is phasing out, and charities are taking tentative steps towards re-establishing fundraising activities. Target-setting is very challenging. The financial ‘sheltering’ has meant that many of the indicators around household spending, employment and the economy show lower impact than might have been expected given the huge lockdown shock on lifestyles. [2]This makes it difficult to predict what will happen now we are more exposed to market forces, especially as daily reports show that risks associated with the virus are still very much around.

Impact of economic trends

The uncertainties of economic growth and household finance in the wake of the pandemic may create a more challenging environment for giving. Wide gaps in donor spending power related to socio-economic circumstances, and their implications for giving, are explored in this report. In addition to this, many consumers are likely to remain cautious about fully resuming pre-lockdown lifestyles, and spending confidence may be volatile for some time. In a context of shifting consumer spending potential and priority, timely market data and a capacity for agile response are becoming increasingly vital for effective fundraising.

Lasting digital transformation

A central story of the pandemic is how digital technology has proved a key, if not revolutionary, tool for economic and social resilience. It will continue to play a crucial role in recovery and growth. Multiple new digital approaches to marketing and delivering goods and services, and making and collecting payments have developed, offering charities many opportunities to work in different, and more efficient ways in the future.

Digital trends are driving us to manage all aspects of our lives from one place, whether employment, shopping, banking, health or social networks. As the boundaries between these areas of activity blur, imaginative new online links with charitable giving opportunities could be only a few clicks away.

US research [3] shows that even high-value donors were increasingly likely to use online mechanisms for giving in the early months after lockdown. For higher net worth donors, major giving online is a short step from conducting major financial and business transactions online, as the necessary privacy, security and legal infrastructure is increasingly developed around these.

There are of course inherent challenges and risks in the widening of consumer choice through enabling shoppers and donors to explore alternatives with ease. A US survey by Giving Tuesday [4] showed that the lion’s share of pandemic giving went to organisations with already robust online fundraising platforms, and a competitive advantage. The ultimate scope and likely speed of the shift to online, card and mobile technology for giving is still unknown. About two-fifths of donors currently give through cash and the proportion is falling. [5] The decline in the use of cash is being exacerbated by public health concerns, and the knock-on effects of people simply not carrying cash. ATM use, including for making charitable payments, has also declined because of health considerations, and the current rapid closure of local banks and ATMs will hasten this.

The development of the use of digital technology needs to go well beyond its value as a simpler or more convenient transactional mechanism for giving. The attraction of cash as a way of giving, for example, lies partly in its immediacy; donors can make an instant face-to-face response to the presentation of a need, often encouraged by a group of peers. Comic Relief’s ‘Big Night In’ is one impressive example of how the integration of digital communications and giving mechanisms can achieve the immediacy important for some forms of fundraising. Not all charities, however, have these kinds of resources, and the risk of a digital divide in the sector has grown since the pandemic.

Aspirations and lifestyles

For many consumers, lifestyles have changed in ways that significantly affect fundraising opportunity. The shift towards remote working, and the uptake of locally-based facilities for shopping, culture, leisure and eating out have changed the physical location of many donors. The growth in public concern about sustainable lifestyles, public health and social justice can be seen in the increasingly ethical choices and expectations of consumers. The market in ethical goods and services grew substantially during the pandemic, and charities’ value-base makes them well-placed to strengthen their place in that market.

These trends are discussed further in subsequent sections of the report. They all have big implications for fundraising, and most require further investment. How should charities decide to invest their scarcer-than-ever fundraising resources to best effect? In this time of transition and uncertainty, what is the right balance between exercising caution and seizing opportunity?

To identify key indicators and pointers which will help planning for future fundraising and income generation, this report brings together evidence from a number of sources, including:

The presentation of the results from new analysis of Family Spending data based on the ONS annual Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) [7], with available data from other sources, is organised around some central themes likely to impact the future shape of household giving:

Note: Further details of the Family Spending data are given in the methodology at the end of the report. The new results from the 2019/20 Family Spending data are presented here to ensure that there is an up-to-date baseline for any future benchmarking, but it will be seen that for several topics the annual picture shows very little change. The survey covers the year ending March 2020.

It is important to note that the analysis focuses on the survey item “Charitable donations and subscriptions”, which includes monetary gifts to charities, but, unlike some other giving surveys, does not include spending on goods or services that charities may provide such as tickets for charity events or items purchased in charity shops.

2. Giving before and after March 2020 lockdown

There is still little comprehensive data on UK giving after lockdown March 16th 2020. This is mainly because of the time taken to carry out research, which means that results for any one year are generally published the following year. This applies both to UK government survey data as well as charities’ accounts. [8] The new analysis of UK household giving presented here, therefore, updates results for the year March 2019 to March 2020. As this includes only a few weeks of pandemic and Lockdown experience, the findings are supplemented with some summary results on annual US giving up to December 2020, which includes 9 months of lockdown experience.

How has household giving changed?

Overall, household giving has seen a slight decline, although household participation barely changed between 2018/19 and 2019/20, going from 26.3% to 26.5%. A different story emerges, however, when we look at the change in amount given. Results show:

This is an unwelcome result, but it is not possible to be conclusive at this stage about its significance. Was it a result of a weaker economy, of lockdown collapse in fundraising in the last two weeks of March 2020, or expected variation within the survey confidence intervals, as shown? We will need a further year’s results to see if it presaged a new downward trend or giving has since recovered.

Post-lockdown giving including US experience

CAF’s UK Giving survey covered the first six calendar months of 2020 and found individual giving increased by £800 million over six months compared to this period in 2019. The scale of this estimate - a more than 17% increase –is unprecedented and has been questioned by some. [10]

Until further UK data is available, it is worth looking at what more recent US experience indicates:

One explanation for extra US giving is that the market remained strong due to Government COVID subsidies. The UK also saw some high returns in 2019 and 2020, partly as the weak pound after Brexit saw high overseas investment returns, and as the UK Government’s lockdown subsidies bolstered the economy. This may have resulted in additional giving by better-off donors.

Implications for fundraising from this evidence are that UK giving in the immediate pre-pandemic period may have weakened, amidst a continuing trend of falling household participation. It is possible that any evidence of higher giving in the pandemic, such as in the US surveys, may be atypical and prompted by circumstances. In other words, the challenges for future fundraising may not only concern recovering from the pandemic but also addressing an underlying downward trend

3. Making use of the tax reliefs -trends in tax-effective giving

As we think about how to maximise future giving, it is obviously important to bring into the picture the UK’s generous (if complex) system of income-tax reliefs on giving, which offers particular benefits to wealthier donors. This section looks at the place of tax-effective giving, with a new analysis of growth trends. Tax-effective gifts [14] are clearly now very significant within private giving:

How do donations and higher-rate tax relief growth compare with economic growth (GDP)?

The analysis of long-term data on giving through Gift Aid [17] shows that:

  Total growth
2001/02 – 2019/20
Per annum growth
Gift Aid donations, net of tax 281% 7.7%
Higher-rate tax relief to individuals  260% 7.4%*
Growth (nominal) in GDP 94% 3.7%

*The per annum growth rate for HRT relief is somewhat misleading since it conceals the jump between 2009/10 and 2010/11 (ie where the pink graph is steeper), when the additional rate of Income Tax (to 50%) was introduced in April 2010.  

These results show Gift Aid tax reliefs have been increasingly widely taken up, though not necessarily that they have stimulated more giving. They are certainly part of how giving levels have been maintained. Their speed of growth has undoubtedly resulted from the promotional efforts of fundraisers and financial advisors, as well as obvious donor popularity and the support of Treasury.

Understanding the shape of tax-relieved giving

Fast-growing trends in the use of tax reliefs suggest their increasing donor importance, and their particular value in fundraising in more uncertain economic times, whether with high-tax-paying donors or less well-off people aiming to give as efficiently as possible. So it is important to understand the ‘shape’ of their use, who is benefitting most and where there are gaps. For clarity the numbers of HRT using Gift Aid, and of donations on self-assessment forms, are presented separately, though the former are largely included within the latter.


Higher-rate tax-payers

Donations on self-assessment

Fundraising implications include the potential opportunities to encourage more HRT and more people completing self-assessment tax forms to make gifts which benefit from higher-rate tax-relief.

Potential approaches to encourage use of the self-assessment for declaring gifts could include:

This may be an area of particular opportunity. Numbers of self-employed have grown rapidly (apart from the pandemic when all employment fell) and the amount of income from self-assessment tax returns in the UK is forecast to rise substantially from £33.6 billion today to £38.3 billion in 2024. [24]

4. Comparing consumer trends in giving and spending

How does charitable donating compare with other giving and spending?

The long-term picture of giving by donor households is still one of growth, with the long-term growth rate significantly outpacing that of all household spending in real terms:

How does giving to charity compare with other forms of household giving?

However, because of the 2019/20 fall in the value of weekly donations, the positive growth trend in the real value of donations over the period April 2000-March 2020 is less statistically significant than reported last year. [25] Trends in gifts outside the household, and money sent abroad show zero real growth over the same period, and are not statistically significant. The comparison of the average value of different kinds of giving shows that charitable giving comes well below the value of gifts to those outside the household, but is higher than gifts sent abroad or made as maintenance allowance. The economic fall-out from the pandemic may well have put increased pressure on households to give to family and friends. Charities will need to ensure ongoing public confidence in the benefits and social difference made by giving to charities.

Bar chart demonstrating composition of

Further context on spending decision-making can be derived from comparing giving with other expenditures.  Overall, UK households spend roughly as much on cinema, theatre and museum visits as they donate to charity, and that these forms of expenditure also increased in real terms over the past two decades. The huge lockdown savings gained when travel and leisure seized up is now being widely seen as a potential bonus opportunity for charities, with some suggesting Government could introduce additional tax reliefs, or create new giving norms to encourage this. [26]

Spending and giving by age and stage in the lifecycle

What can we expect as travelling and leisure activities resume, re-creating competition for the charitable pound?


Bar chart showing types of household spending in the UK in 2021

Overall, essential spending on housing, fuel and power costs (including mortgage interest payments) heavily dominates household spending. Within more discretionary spending, however, luxury items like eating out or package holidays are a higher priority than giving. This balance may have shifted during Lockdown because of restrictions on travel and hospitality.

The analysis of spending shows some stark contrasts in spending priority and potential by age-band. This suggests that the opportunity for charitable fundraising to attract a larger share of discretionary spending as restrictions ease and consumer options open up will also vary considerably by age-band:

Fundraisers often worry about support from future generations of young people. This analysis shows how spending potential, including charitable giving, is strongly related to age and lifecycle stage. Should this be a much stronger feature of fundraising strategy, in relation to both giving potential and preferences? For example, will older age-groups remain wary about resuming pre-Lockdown leisure activities? Are younger donors shifting towards sustainable products?

New consumer movements

Persuading people to give more, and shift their spending priorities, means capturing hearts and minds. This may be a critical moment for charities. The pandemic obscured mounting concern about the global climate crisis, but the balance is shifting in the face of extreme weather events and the increasing impact of the COVID vaccination programme. Black Lives Matter forced issues of diversity and equality to the fore. These crises are reinforcing demands for greater social responsibility, sustainability and equality in our institutions. Public trust in charities has shown an uptick, after a low-point in 2018 around governance and safeguarding scandals [27] no doubt due to their role in dealing with the fall-out of the pandemic. Charities have a unique opportunity to publicise the ethics of public benefit, social justice and values-base which lead their work.

The annual Ethical Consumer Markets Report [28] estimates that the ethical consumption market increased from £87 billion in 2018 to £98 billion in 2019. It presents a host of indicators showing how both purchasing behaviours and future purchasing intentions around ethical goods and services grew measurably during the pandemic, from buying Fairtrade products, and reducing energy consumption to donating to foodbanks, supporting charities, and buying second-hard products (33% saying they did this more since Lockdown compared with 21% saying less.) This is a growth market in which charities could clearly have a key place.  As people change their own behaviours, they will increasingly look at others. For example, the sector has over £116 billion worth of investments [29], but just three-fifths of charities appear to have ethical investment policies, over half involving negative screening only. [30] The ethical investment market is predicted to reach £48 billion by 2027, and there are many opportunities to invest in social and environmental as well as economic impact. Charities will need to show how they share donors’ values and priorities, and build trust in their whole value chain, whether around sustainability, safeguarding or other rapidly spreading concerns around privacy and data security, combatting misinformation, equality and diversity.

5. Who gives? – employment, age and regional/ national trends

Multiple research studies, national and international, have shown that income and amount donated are positively related. In planning future fundraising, patterns in employment are an important indicator for spending potential. In the years immediately preceding the COVID pandemic economic growth was fairly low. Median household income was the same in 2018 as in 2016, and the standard of living for many people had not improved since the credit crisis. [31] Low-income households had seen five years of income stagnation. Within an already flat economic context, fall-out from the pandemic has led to high levels of unemployment. While the labour market has begun to recover, the number of payroll employees remains 201,000 below pandemic levels. [32]

How does household and per person spending vary by the economic activity of the head of the household (HRP)?

Bar chart showing UK household spending by economic activity of household reference person

The results show the general significance of employment status for spending capacity, but also the big differences between spending by household and per household member:

Could fundraising approaches model where spending decisions are made, and factor in whether they are targeting household or individual levels, or all? There are 28 million households in the UK, with one-person households in a range from 22.8% in London to 33.6% in Scotland and the North East of England. [33] Recent US research has found 61.5% of couples make giving decisions together, though the proportion has been declining. When one partner decides, it is more likely to be a woman. [34] It found that 75% of couples agree on giving amounts and recipients, and most discuss giving at least a few times a year. How should this affect choice of mail, phone, email or text approaches?

Self employment

Self-employment has grown significantly in the UK in recent years. The data show that where the HRP is self-employed, both household and per person spending are higher than those in part-time employment. Self-employed people may be harder for fundraisers to reach than those in employment who are based in public settings like schools, hospitals, factories etc, but are an important donor group. The self-employed workforce is older than the workforce as a whole and age is a significant factor for giving. This group may need to be reached in new ways, including through online approaches, other kinds of social and professional networks, and new office spaces.


Where the HRP is retired, total household spending is at the lower end comparatively, but per person spending is second highest. This is probably because mortgage and other housing costs are lower, and households are smaller as children have left and one spouse may have died.

How does per person and household spending vary by socio-economic class?

There is a positive relationship between socio-economic rankings of HRP and total household and per person spending. Both are highest where the HRP is in a high managerial or high professional position, and both decline in value in step with falling socio-economic status. Together the figures show that consumer households with different income and employment characteristics have very different spending patterns. If charities built up more detailed and nuanced information on such donor characteristics, they could target communications and appeals more effectively.

Age and giving

The marked impact of age on particular kinds of spending was discussed above. Data on overall weekly household spending show marked variations by the age of the HRP.

These results show the significance of taking age into account when estimating giving potential, but weekly spending in households with an older HRP may be a less useful indicator of true financial circumstance than in households with a younger HRP. Older households are likely to have fewer debts and some accumulated savings or wealth. These data underline just how valuable it can be to segment the donor market, and tailor fundraising messages to suit the varied spending power of different age-groups. Such segmentation also provides the opportunity to tailor content and style of messages to different age groups. The data shows:

These points suggest that when considering households by age only, per person spending may be a more meaningful indicator of household capacity to give than its total spending. 

The significance of geographical location

The uneven pandemic experience across the country, and its higher impact on more deprived areas has drawn attention to the UK’s significant geographical socio-economic inequalities. Household spending by region is updated here, and it shows the marked and persisting differences.  

The proportion of spending on cash gifts and donations also varies considerably across the country, and is notably higher in the South East than elsewhere, followed by London and the North East.

How does geographical location affect spending on cash gifts and donations?

Bar chart household giving behaviour by UK region

Discretionary spending on eating out and leisure also vary by region, and are noticeably higher in London, the South East, the South West and East than in the Midlands and Northern regions.

How does spending vary geographically?

Bar chart selected type of household spending

Current data (June 2021 [35]) show the persistence of marked regional/ national inequalities in rates of unemployment. It is hard to gauge how far such inequalities will remain or even deepen under the longer-term impacts of Brexit and paying back the pandemic debt. The aim of the Government’s levelling up agenda [36] is to redress regional trends in inequality. Philanthropic and other public funders were putting place-based funding at the heart of social change strategies well before the pandemic. [37] If such initiatives are successful they might help change regional fundraising prospects.

How does all giving compare with culture, eating out and transport, by income?

The wide variation in amounts of household giving and spending by income band are shown below.

Bar chart selected type of household spending by equivalised disposable income decile
Income decile bottom 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 top
Lower bound (40) - £185 £244 £301 £348 £405 £470 £538 £639 £794

Spending on giving, eating out, leisure and transport are compared by 10 income bands or deciles, from the lowest-earning 10% to the highest-earning 10%. The breakdown clearly reveals the huge differences in spending on all areas by households in the different income bands. Wealthier people have been much less affected by the pandemic financially than those in poorer areas, and some reports suggest that the very wealthiest have made major gifts which have helped maintain charity incomes.  A key challenge for fundraising in the new ‘normal’ is to find ways of accessing and appealing to potential donors in the middle-income bands, many of whom are facing financial and other uncertainties in the post-Lockdown period. Some groups will struggle disproportionately.

6. Giving, the economy and consumer confidence

Giving by donor households fell slightly in 2020. Its growth also failed to keep pace with economic growth, after slightly out-pacing it between 2001 and 2018/19. [40] The poorer performance of giving compared with the rest of the economy is reflected in the lower value of household donations as a proportion of total spending.  

It is too early to tell whether this was just a blip, or the start of a more lasting trend which will compound the challenges of post-pandemic fundraising recovery. It could mean a figure closer to the lower end of the range calculated in 2020 [41], which applied lowest and highest Treasury forecasts for economic growth to household giving, and indicated a growth rate of between 0% -25% in the value of household giving in 2021. This translated to total household giving of £6.3 billion on Treasury’s lowest forecast of GDP, and £8.4 billion on its highest.

How does household giving growth compare with economic growth (GDP)?

Household odnations and nominal GDP over time line graph

Consumer confidence

Consumer confidence is an important indicator of how people feel about the stability of the economy and their incomes, and will influence their spending decisions. A batch of UK consumer confidence surveys shows that indicators have bobbed up and down dramatically during the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges, partly related to the very uneven impacts on different population groups. Many fewer younger people (under 30) and poorer people were reported to feel able to save for the year ahead compared with the previous March. [43] However, the proportion of the population as a whole feeling able to save had gone up slightly, and quite markedly amongst those who were employed, better-off or homeowners.

In June 2021 the GFK consumer confidence index found that while forecasts for personal finances over the next 12 months were considerably higher than for the same time the previous year, they had changed little in the short-term. Expectations for the general economic situation had dropped back slightly. [44] A YouGov tracker shows that the public’s outlook has settled at a rough mid-point between its highs and lows over the last months, with 55% of the market currently believing the coronavirus situation is getting better in the UK, and just 32% believing it globally (August 2021). [45] These results suggest consumer confidence has hit a plateau. A PWC survey shows little consensus on when things will ‘get back to normal’, with the largest single group choosing summer 2022. [46]

An important issue for fundraising is that ongoing consumer uncertainty about the outlook for economic growth is likely to affect confidence about spending and giving, at least in the short-term. It may be valuable to develop short and longer-term fundraising expectations and targets.

7. Changes that stick

Digital trends

Digital trends will increasingly shape expectations and behaviour around giving transaction. Two separate but related issues are the extent to which existing donors will move to online and mobile giving, and the ways in which tech-savvy donors will choose to use the alternative modes for their giving. CAF reports that the number of donors giving through a website or app increased in the months after lockdown, from 13% to 24%. Other surveys have found very high figures amongst already tech-savvy donors. A comparative global survey only amongst respondents who already have access to the internet and email and/or social media shows high use of online and mobile modes:

Amidst growing availability of secure mobile and online technologies for legal, business, banking and financial transaction, wealthier donors will become increasingly comfortable with these facilities, and this will open up opportunities to develop new online approaches to major donors. As the old boundaries between the previously separate areas of our lives such as banking and finance, health, professional and social lives shift, there is potential for new kinds of inter-relationships, networks and links. Big data can facilitate this, though charities must establish and respect people’s expectations around privacy and data boundaries.

The development of new approaches is currently far outpacing our ability to keep track of their use. A ‘digital divide’, where charities with more resources to invest in IT gain a huge competitive edge, is a major risk. And finally, in this fast-moving world, a major challenge is for charities to ensure high quality digital services and protection for donors. Shared information on the new infrastructure providers is needed, like for example Charity Digital’s platform. [47]

Knowledge and data management

As facilities open up, and economic growth returns (albeit from a low base), the April 2021 UK COVID Tracker Survey [48] suggests 46% of charities will reach pre-pandemic levels of fundraising events by December. It is likely that charities’ experiences will be uneven:

These tracker surveys suggest that giving has held up sufficiently for charities to have some confidence in moving forward post-lockdown. In this period of economic uncertainty, there is more need than ever for fundraisers to understand their donors, to access real-time information on important shifts. For example, while trends suggest a current abundance of employment, new research also shows there is no ‘job-seekers’ paradise’, [50] and much of this lies in in low-paying work.

Fundraisers will need to be agile in responding to shifts in donor perceptions, behaviours and attitudes. Many charities have already set off down this route, for example exploring what makes people feel safe at events, or feel secure in using online facilities and providing personal information. They are stating their approaches to sustainability and equality, and introducing new technologies for donating. In a time of rapid and uncertain change, consumer awareness is a priority for strategic fundraising planning and investment.

Values and lifestyles

Besides digital transformation, other significant changes are remote working, locally-based lifestyles, online shopping, ethical consumption and increased public health awareness. These are rapidly creating a new context for fundraising, and investment priorities must at minimum include ongoing consumer research, internet and mobile technology. This will challenge already stretched budgets, and the scope for collective investment and foundation funding should be explored. Foundations have already funded the IT infrastructure to keep charities operating under Lockdown. Though the environment is both challenging and uncertain, it also offers charities an unparalleled chance to highlight their special qualities - their community roots, their value base and ethics of social responsibility, and their close links with users and multiple stakeholders across society.


Issues which arise for fundraisers

Strategic approaches to the lasting impact of changes triggered by the pandemic could include:

Appendix: Note on methodology

This report builds on research published last year using data collected through the ONS Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) and published by the ONS as Family Spending It updates several of the analyses to 2019/20. A previous study [51] analysed trends from 1978 to 2008, and a selection [52] of these was updated last year to 2018/19, and has been further updated to 2019/20 in this new report.

There are 27.8 million households in the UK, an increase of 6.8% over the last 10 years, and they are an important unit for giving, with many key spending decisions made in the household context. Giving trends are analysed in relation to a set of the household factors which could potentially have the greatest effect on spending decisions as the economy absorbs the impact of the pandemic and moves into the post-pandemic recovery period. Factors include total household and per person spending, employment status of the head of the household, household income, and spending on related items, including by region. The findings are presented in a series of graphs. All members of households participating in the LCF keep a diary of their spending for two weeks. Spending is then aggregated by item for the household and converted to weekly amounts. The sample sizes for households participating in the LCF between 2000-2001 and 2019-2020 range between 4,920 and 7,473 per year. One member of each household is designated as the Household Representative Person (HRP) whose characteristics such as age and occupation are then used to categorise the household. Usually, the HRP is the person with the highest income, or for equal incomes, the eldest one.


[1] See the section on Income and giving for estimates from US data.

[2] ONS Coronavirus and the Impact on UK households and businesses:2020.

[3] Giving Tuesday

[4] Giving Tuesday ibid

[5] CAF, 2020, ibid

[6] Pharoah, C and McKenzie, T (2020) Re-framing the Ask. CIOF, CGAP, University of Dundee

[7] For further details see the Methodology on page 23

[8] Data on a full year of giving by households and charitable foundations will not be available till next year.

[9] April 2021 £ value



[12] Legacy Foresight (2021) Legacy Market Outlook 2020-2025

[13] Giving Tuesday Data Commons: Giving in Unprecedented Times

[14] Details on the system of tax reliefs on giving can be found at


[16] See Pharoah, C and Walker, C. (2019) Foundation Giving Trends 2019, page 5


[18] HMRC. Table 3: Gift Aid and Covenants

[19 HMRC. Table 6: Donations declared by individuals completing UK Self Assessments, by donor type

[20] HMRC. Table 2.1 Number of individual Income Tax payers

[21] Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) March 2021 ECONOMIC AND FISCAL OUTLOOK EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

[22] HMRC Table 6: Donations declared by individuals completing UK Self Assessments, by donor type

[23] HMRC Table 7: Donations declared by individuals completing UK Self Assessments, by geographic area

[24] Statista 2020. Forecasted income from self-assessment tax returns in the United Kingdom from 2017-2024

[25] Pharoah, C, McKenzie, T. (2020) ibid

[26] Franklin, J and Kenley, A. (June 2021) Setting lockdown savings free Is there an opportunity for the charity sector? Pro Bono Economics





[31] Bourquin, P et al. (2020) Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK:2020. Institute of Fiscal Studies




[36] (forthcoming)


[38] Hughes,P, Luksetich,W. (2007) ‘Income Volatility and Wealth: The Effect on Charitable Giving’. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Vol 37, Issue 2, 2008

NEW ESTIMATES FROM PANEL DATA National Tax Journal, June 2011, 64 (2, Part 2), 615–650 

[40] The lower bound refers to the lowest weekly income in the decile, expressed in April 2021 £. Thus weekly disposable income in the bottom decile is less than £185 per household, in the second decile it is between £185 and £244, and so forth. Income is equivalised according to the “OECD-modified” scale, to account for different numbers of adults and children in each household.

[41] Pharoah, C and McKenzie, T (2020) Re-framing the Ask. CIOF/ CGAP/ University of Dundee

[42] Pharoah, C and McKenzie, T (2020) ibid

[43] ONS Coronavirus and the Impact on UK households and businesses:2020. ibid


[45] YouGov COVID-19 Tracker Survey



[48] COVID Tracker Survey April 2021, CIOF/ Pro Bono Economics



[51] Cowley, E, T McKenzie, C Pharoah and S Smith (2011) The New State of Donation: Three decades of household giving to charity 1978-2008, Bristol: Centre for Market and Public Organisation, University of Bristol.

[52] In order to obtain an early picture of trends, this analysis is restricted to the data currently published and immediately accessible as ONS “Family Spending”, while the earlier study accessed the full survey dataset.

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