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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 10:11 GMT
How much do people give to charity?
Gordon Brown wants the world's leading economies to boost aid to poor countries, while Oxfam say they have halved their aid budgets since the 60s. But if charity begins at home, what about you and me? How much do individuals give to good causes, and how many give nothing?

With Christmas looming charities are once again hoping to tap into the season's giving spirit and boost their coffers before the end of the year.

But how much are we prepared to give?

Last year, 7.1bn was given to charity by individuals in the UK, according to joint research by the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

That breaks down to an average annual donation of 147.84 per person aged 16 and over. It is less than a tenth of the American average of $3,455 (1,773) per head.

In America, charities shoulder much of the burden that in Britain is assumed by the public sector and there are better tax breaks for givers. Also, religion accounts for more than 60% of donations in the US - far higher than in the UK, although more cash is collected in Britain through churches than any other means.

The giving trend in Britain has fluctuated over the years, with individual donations falling in the mid-1990s - some blame the influence of the National Lottery - before climbing sharply around the time of the millennium, according to the NCVO.

Last year signalled the first drop since 1996. Charitable donations come well down the league of spending priorities in the average household, below eating out, package holidays, newspapers and books, alcohol and tobacco.

The giving culture is highly inconsistent. Two-thirds of givers donate up to 5 in a typical month, but this only accounts for a small fraction of the overall amount donated. The 147 average sum is wildly distorted by a small number of "elite" givers at the other end of the spectrum, who donate upwards of 50 a month.

Cast out of the picture entirely are the 16 million people - a third of eligible givers - who donate nothing to charity. Some of those however, will volunteer their time, rather than give cash.

TOP WAYS OF GIVING
Percentage of population who give through various means:
Street collection - 18.8%
Door to door - 15.5%
Raffle tickets - 12.2%
Buying in charity shop - 10.6%
Shop counter collection - 10.2%
Source: CAF/NCVO/NOP
The disparity in giving is mirrored by a discrepancy among receivers. A handful of big, "super charities" have done better than average in recent years, thanks to cleverer canvassing, such as the use of "chuggers" - street canvassers who sign people up to direct debit donations. Small and medium-sized charities have witnessed a fall in fortunes.

So could we give more?

About 40% of us could double our weekly contribution, according to a survey by CAF, yet few have the inclination to do so. When asked what they would do with an extra 20 per week to spend, the majority said they wouldn't give it to charity.

"It's up to charities to find even more powerful ways of persuading people of the value of their work," says Cathy Pharoah, Director of Research at CAF.

"Ultimately, if everyone who said they could double their giving actually did, an extra 55m would be going to charity every week."


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