CAF’s third report on giving in Scotland 2019 has just been published offering us another fine slice of insight into how the Scottish public supports good causes.

First up, money.  For the third year in a row, the number of people in Scotland giving money to charities dropped.  The frequency of people’s donations fell, and overall donation amounts are down. Not great news on the face of it, but we shouldn’t lose sleep just yet.

61% of people in Scotland donated to charity last year, holding on to our lead ahead of the rest of the UK (57%), and the estimated total figure for Scotland, while down on last year’s, was a not-to-be-sniffed-at £851m.  

More importantly, it looks like the fall in people giving money is directly linked to a reduction in the number of requests being made of them by charities. Of course, if you don’t ask you don’t get. But what the CAF report shows is that charities seem to be listening public concerns and moving away from the least popular types of fundraising.  Fewer street and door to door fundraising requests were made last year, and tightening up the use of personal data on the back of GDPR seems to have resulted in a fall in direct mail requests.  Better fundraising practices can only have a positive impact in the longer-term, building better quality relationships with supporters. I’m fairly confident we’ll see donations rise again next year.

The report findings also suggest a return to longer-term donation models. While cash donations dropped, 43% of people gave via direct debits, up from 34%. And while there was a drop in the average amount given, the median amount donated has remained stable at £20 per month. So we may have lost some ‘super donors’ last year, but these major donations are notoriously volatile and are unlikely to be in response to standard fundraising requests anyway.

Another reason to celebrate is that engagement with charities remains high in Scotland. Last year 9 out of 10 people in Scotland got involved in some kind of charitable action, from donating money or goods to social activism, higher than the rest of the UK, and we know that personal connection fosters trust.

One area where we perhaps should be concerned is the report suggests that the number of people volunteering is continuing to fall. The Scottish Household Survey shows that volunteering rates have stubbornly stuck at around 28%. Given the importance of ensuring new volunteers keep coming into our sector, we can maybe take heart that youth volunteering rates are on the rise thanks to great initiatives such as the Saltire Awards. . This shows that really investing in volunteering can have a real impact, as well the need to take into account the many ways in which people give their time, both formal and informal – for a review of research into volunteering see this research summary. In response, the Scottish Government and voluntary and community sector partners have come together to produce a new national outcomes framework for volunteering, Volunteering for All which will help champion volunteering and develop future strategies.

So in summary, the giving habits of the Scottish public suggest a slight drop in donors and amounts donated, but people’s support for good causes remains very strong and there lots of positive steps being taken by charities, so lots of reasons to be optimistic for the future. SCVO researchers are currently in the middle of analysing charity accounts for our State of the Sector research. It will be very interesting to see what those accounts tell us about donations and fundraising in 2018, and to what extent what people said they gave matches what charities actually received. Findings should be coming out in late summer, so keep watching this space.