Charities and community groups seeing drop off in donations amid unprecedented demand

Charities, food banks and local groups are experiencing a drop in donations as cost-of-living pressures cause demand to reach “unprecedented levels”.

Voluntary groups are seeing fewer financial and food donations and fewer volunteers, according to a survey by the giving platform Neighbourly.

Two thirds of small voluntary organisations across the UK have seen a drop-off in financial donations, and six in 10 reported receiving less food donated by the public directly or via supermarkets, the survey suggests.

Separate research from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) tracking donor behaviour found that nearly one in ten people (9%) said they held back from making a one-off donation last month.

Neighbourly surveyed 1,374 local charity and community organisations supporting 528,953 people across the UK and Ireland at the end of September.

It found that 61% have seen a drop in fundraising opportunities and 55% received fewer donations of surplus food from businesses. One in four (27%) reported fewer people able to volunteer.

It said it is seeing a significant rise in requests for help from people who are in work.

Almost half of the groups surveyed are planning to provide warm places for people struggling to afford energy bills, also known as ‘warm banks’.

Yet over half (51%) are concerned about their organisation’s own ability to keep afloat with energy bills.

The ARC food bank in Islington, north London, is working at a full capacity and has a waiting list.

Coordinator Melissa Clarke said: “Many in our neighbourhood are struggling to make ends meet and are in need of ongoing help, not just for an emergency.

“Life is now a constant emergency for many.”

Neighbourly chief executive Steve Butterworth said its survey findings are “stark” and “yet another reminder of the precarious position we find ourselves in”.

He said: “Relatively speaking we are still in the early stages of this cost-of-living crisis and this situation will intensify over the coming months, with a growing proportion of the UK population struggling, many of which will never have needed support like this before.

“It is therefore imperative that the government lays out a clear vision of support for those in financial difficulty and ensures the charities and organisations that support them are not left behind.”

A separate survey of 1,376 charities that receive food from the UK charity FareShare, found that nine in 10 have seen increased demand, with 29% reporting that need has more than doubled.

Nine in 10 said they are worried they cannot meet the extra demand and need access to more food (74%) and funding (64%).

The majority of charities said they were worried about covering fuel and transport costs, securing enough food and income, and maintaining volunteers.

FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell said: “What we are hearing from the charities we support is that this situation will only worsen and they are worried they may not be able to meet the extra demand.”

CAF said its monthly UK giving survey of 1,023 people by YouGov found that 6% stopped or reduced a regular payment to charity because of increasing living costs in September.

Around a fifth (19%) said they are considering cutting back on donations, up from 14% in March.

The proportion considering this peaked at 22% in August, when there was much concern and discussion around rising energy bills.

Around a quarter (26%) of those surveyed said they had donated in the previous month. Prior to the pandemic, around 30% of respondents usually said they gave to charity in September.

The average monthly donation fell to £51, down from £67 in August.

Rising inflation is also eroding the real-terms value of donations, CAF warned.

Chief executive Neil Heslop, said charities are working hard to support those at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis, but are “having to do much more, with much less money”.

He said: “Charities need donations now more than ever as more families rely on the vital services they provide.

“Mass giving is crucial for many charities, so as people cut back, government and private sector funding which supported charities through the pandemic is greatly needed to help them through this crisis.”

The Felix Project, London’s largest food redistribution organisation, is launching The Empty Plate Emergency Appeal in response to growing need.

Its YouGov survey of 1,513 Londoners earning less than £20,000 found 9% have just £2.85 a day to spend on breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The charity said rising bills are putting increasing pressure on low-income families with food banks and community kitchens stepping in, and “every day more groups are asking for supplies”.

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