By Rachel Burden, Research Data Analyst, AMRC

Published: 19 April 2017

A new report published by the Charity Aid Foundation has found that medical research was the cause people were most likely to donate to in 2016.  

The report is based on monthly interviews over 8 months on a total of 8,000 people (1,000 each month, May – December 2016). The Charity Aid Foundation have also undertaken similar surveys annually since 2004 and so have been able to compare how donation patterns have changed over time. Some of the key facts from the report are listed below, although it is important to note these are all based on estimates:

Key facts from the report:

Giving to medical research:

  • 26% of people donated to medical research charities in the four weeks prior to being interviewed, making it the most popular cause to donate to.
  • This is a change from last year where children and young people was the most popular cause, closely followed by medical research (see 2016 report here).

  • But even though medical research is the most popular cause, in 2016 it only received 8% of the total value of donations. This compares to religious organisations who received 20% of the total donation amount, even though only 14% of people actually donated to them in the last 4 weeks. This shows that while more people donate to medical research, the donations are on average smaller in value compared to many other causes.
  • Medical research is also the most popular cause to sponsor others for (37%). Other similar medical causes are close behind with physical and mental care (21%) and hospitals and hospices (21%).
  • People in social grades AB (upper middle class and middle class) and those who live in the North East are most likely to give to medical research.

General donation patterns:

  • Cash remains the main way to donate money to charity
  • An estimated £9.7 billion in total was donated to charities in the UK 2016. This is very similar to 2015 donations (£9.6bn).
  • 61% of people donated to charities in the last year. This was the main way people engage with charities rather than giving goods, volunteering, buying products and signing petitions.

Donation as part of the wider economy

The report also looks at how economic events over the last 10 years have affected charity income and donations. The pattern has roughly followed the same trend as our medical research expenditure figures, showing that charity income and research expenditure has followed a general increase over the last 8 years.

The effects of economic events on charitable giving and charity income (CAF UK Giving report 2017)

Total UK charity medical research expenditure over time (AMRC research expenditure database)