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British charities feel the pinch as austerity takes its toll

Published time: December 09, 2012 17:30
Edited time: December 09, 2012 21:30
A woman looks through what remains of donations that had been left outside a charity shop overnight in east London.(Reuters / Russell Boyce)

A woman looks through what remains of donations that had been left outside a charity shop overnight in east London.(Reuters / Russell Boyce)

Many British charities could be forced shutter in the new year if the economic situation doesn’t improve, research says. As many as a fifth of the country's charities face closure in 2013 due to public spending cuts and falling donations.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) conducted the survey, which found that one in six of the UK's charities believes it's likely that falling donations could force them to close next year. The research also illustrates that nearly half of the country's charities had to dip into their reserves to stay afloat this year, while more than a quarter have cut frontline services and as many have fired staff.

"Times are tough and people have less money to donate to charities,” the CAF's website quotes chief executive John Low as saying.

According to the CAF’s recent research, donations to charities in the UK have fallen by one fifth in 2011-2012. The online survey was completed by 252 senior level charity workers with direct and significant input into the financial, operational, or fundraising strategies of their charity. Speaking in terms of money, donations dropped from £11 billion to £9.3 billion during 2011-2012. The £1.7-billion fall in the total amount of money given to charities in the UK in the past year is the biggest fall in a single year since the survey of charity donations began. 

Official figures from the Office of National Statistics say that the number of people donating became smaller, as did the amounts they gave. According to that research, people currently give around £10 to causes of their choice every month, while last year they donated £11 on average.

The survey asked 3,000 people about how much they gave to charity. On average, the largest donations went to religious charities. Those that help children and young people were also among the most popular. Charities funding research into illnesses and hospitals were the least popular.

“Charities of all sizes play an essential role in our society, providing social care and education as well as helping some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.  We all need to act now to support Britain’s charities so they can continue their vital work,” CAF chief Low stressed, as the foundation called for people to support charities through regular giving, for businesses to support charities either through donations or through practical means, and the government to modernize and promote gift aid and payroll giving so donations go further.

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