A new report reflects on giving behaviour amongst British donors in the closing months of 2021, providing valuable insights that apply to fundraising across the world.

First the bad news, despite the headlines about UK salaries rising and widespread job vacancies, 43% of Brits reported they would find it harder to donate at Christmas 2021, compared to just 11% finding it easier, according to the latest Donor Pulse report from London-based fundraising agency, Enthuse 

However, even with these financial challenges the good news is that 73% of the public still planned to donate at Christmas time; the highest figure recorded since the quarterly report began in June 2020.  

And more good news – 71% of the UK public made a charitable donation between September and November 2021 (the study’s reporting period) – the highest level in a year. In a pre-Omicron world, confidence amongst the British public was on the up and so was their generosity.  

As restrictions eased, boosters were rolled-out and people returned to the office, an increase in the numbers giving was not the only fundraising trend to make itself known on the other side of the world; the report shares valuable insights into age-related giving trends, the fundraising potential of a return to peer to peer (P2P) events, and observations about why people don’t want to opt-in to fundraising communications.  

Here’s the round-up:  

Why you can’t ignore younger donors  

It was the under-40s who were the most represented amongst the elevated numbers of UK donors, with 77% of Gen Z making a donation during the reporting period, followed by 76% of Millennials. The report suggests that this, and the overall growth in giving numbers, can be partly attributed to more opportunities to give following lockdowns. And there was no better opportunity than fundraising behemoth, the London Marathon, which returned in October 2021 following a one-year hiatus.  

A younger demographic also shone when it came to the number of charities they supported.  Millennials and Gen Z gave to the widest range of charities with 51% and 50% respectively donating to two or more causes. A third of each of these age groups gave to three or more charities. In comparison, 38% of Baby Boomers gave to two or more charities and just over a fifth (22%) gave to three or more causes.  

Could it be that the younger age groups are just getting asked more by their networks? The chart below shows the number of fundraising requests the public received during the reporting period. Overall, just under half of the public (45%) received a request from a friend, colleague, employer or school to donate. A healthy figure that rises to 62% when looking at under 40s compared to 34% for those over 40. The chart also shows how much competition each charity’s donors are exposed to! For example, you can see that, for the under 40s, almost one in five were asked to set up a regular gift in the three-month reporting period.  

The takeaways:  

1) The UK is further ahead than Australia in terms of “living with COVID-19” and this has manifested in a positive uptick in donations. But what will the picture be in the next Donor Pulse report following the Omicron surge?  

2) P2P events have fundraising clout and a powerful ability to attract younger supporters. The return to offices and schools plays an important role in P2P asks and therefore, success.  

3) The under-40s represent an enthusiastic and generous audience – charities need to attract this group by creating campaigns and appeals that engage with them. 

4) It’s important for charities to provide their supporters with tools and information that make it easy as possible for donors to give to them – because your donors are being asked to give by many organisations. The public have their limits on how many charities they can support, so ensure your requests are well timed and communicated.  

Causes with clout  

It will come as no surprise that UK giving has been skewed towards the NHS, mental health, poverty and research into disease throughout the pandemic, as shown in the table below (with animal welfare as the outlier – perhaps because no one can resist a cute puppy and animal adoptions have skyrocketed during COVID-19?!).  

The report suggests these figures have also been influenced by the London Marathon effect; the choice of Macmillan Cancer Support as the event’s charity partner has undoubtedly helped ‘research into disease’ continue to be the leading cause of choice for donations.  

Key takeaways: 

1) If you’ve ever doubted the power of P2P fundraising, look no further than the London Marathon! 

2) Choice of cause to support has continually shifted depending on what the public see as the priority areas to give to. This means it is important for charities to demonstrate their relevance to issues that are dominating the news agenda with topical campaigns and appeals. 

An update on UK online giving 

Online giving grew during the reporting period, with 43% of donors donating online. Gen Z led the way with 59% donating online, followed by Millennials at 52%. However, the shift to online giving in the last year has also seen older age groups becoming less resistant to donating online. Only 22% of 65 – 80-year-olds said they would not donate online in December 2021, compared to 27% in December 2020.    

The reporting period revealed interesting trends about where donations were made. A large amount of donations went through third-party giving platforms compared to charities’ own websites, as shown in the chart below. The reason behind the jump in use of consumer giving platforms was almost completely down to the London Marathon and its partnership with Virgin Money Giving. However, there is a significant difference between the amount donated via the two methods. The average donation via a consumer giving platform is £34.46, but this rises to £42.63 when the donation is directly to the charity website – a difference of 21%. This underlines how important it is for charities to drive direct donations. 

Key takeaways: 

1) We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – older donors are online and they’re willing to donate there!  

2) Third-party donation platforms serve a purpose, but people tend to donate more if they give directly on a charity’s own website – try your best to drive them there or ensure that your donation page on a consumer donation platform clearly reflects your branding.  

To opt in or not to opt in, that is the question  

The challenge of building an ongoing relationship with donors is underlined by the fact that nearly two fifths (39%) of people in the research were averse to opting-in to marketing communications.  

The demographic breakdown in the research paints a very clear picture that the desire to opt-in to charity communications declines with age. Fewer than one in five of over 55s indicated they would be willing to opt in. Gen Z (54%) and Millennials (47%) are the most open to communication. Even so, a significant minority (29% of Gen Z and 35% of Millennials) remain reluctant to opt-in. 

There are two main reasons behind this aversion to opting-in as shown in the chart below. First is a lack of commitment to the charity – just over half (51%) of donors do not want a charity emailing them asking for further donations, and perhaps more concerningly, they are not interested in receiving the charity’s emails at all.  

The second major reason for opting-out relates to data management, with close to half (49%) of donors citing concerns about how their data would be shared by the charity and worries about the potential of a data breach. And more than a quarter (26%) of respondents specifically stated that they were concerned about receiving emails from third-party fundraising platforms rather than the charity. This can be confusing for donors so opting-out of all can seem like the simplest option.  

In summary, online giving in the UK – just like the rest of the world – has established itself as the key element of the donation mix since the pandemic started. It has remained high at all levels of COVID-19 restrictions in Britain. Older age groups have warmed to the idea, with only around one in five of 55 – 64-year-olds and 65 – 80-year-olds now stating they would not donate online.  

However, despite this willingness to engage in online giving, there is work for charities to do on engagement, particularly with older age groups. Streamlining communications so donors are not receiving multiple requests from charities and third-party platforms is one improvement that can be made, as well as making sure that emails are relevant, engaging and do not always have a donation ask.  

Finally, there is a need to consider how much communication to do – it is all too easy to over-communicate with supporters leading to more opt-outs and making those who give in the moment harder to reach and build long-lasting relationships with.  

Key takeaways: 

1) Charities need to look at alternative ways to keep over-55’s engaged in light of the hesitancy amongst this age group to opt-in.  

2) If supporters have weak engagement with your charity, they will be less likely to opt-in to your communications. This points to a need to provide engaging information about the charity’s work at the point of donation, to build a strong stewardship programme. 

3) When you are taking donations through a third-party fundraising platform, be clear about what supporters are opting-in to – if they can be confident they will hear from you, and not the fundraising platform, they will be more likely to opt-in.  

4) A/B testing content can help you understand what drives more open and click through rates. 

Pre-Christmas predictions  

At the beginning of December 2021, nearly three quarters (73%) of the UK public were intending to give over the next three months. This figure was up five percentage points on December 2020, meaning Christmas giving was looking promising.  

Active donors make up the bulk of these givers, with 88% of recent donors intending to give again. But the spirit of Christmas was also having an impact on those who hadn’t given recently – 36% of whom intended to donate in the next three months, up from 28% in the June – August 2021 report.  

Promisingly, donors showed no signs of reducing their giving as they moved towards 2022. Prior to Christmas 2021, 15% were planning on giving more than they had the year before, 7% were planning on giving less and 68% were about the same. And here comes those under-40s again – 21% of them were planning on giving more than the previous year, compared to 10% of over-40s. 

So what makes the people of the UK give more at Christmas time? Nearly two fifths (38%) of people donate because they see campaigns that ask for donations, not because they are looking for opportunities to give. A little over two fifths (42%) like to give at Christmas and are looking out for chances to donate.  

What stood out in the research was that people’s indications about what they’d give to at Christmas time were often different from what they support for the rest of the year. About 25% of people usually donate to homelessness charities, but this jumps to 37% over the Christmas period.  Children’s charities are also more likely to receive more donations than usual – up from around 27% of people donating at other times of the year to 39% at Christmas. Other areas like health, animal welfare and faith organisations do not experience the same Christmas-related uptick in giving.  

Key takeaways:  

1) It’s not rocket science, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get! And if you don’t ask at Christmas time, you’re really missing out.  

2) If you work for an organisation that resonates with people at Christmas time, such as homelessness support, then capitalise on it. And if you don’t, consider if there is an area of need in your work that does fit into those specific areas of interest. Eg. Do you work for an animal welfare charity that supports homeless people with pets, or perhaps you can focus on ‘homeless’ animals?  

To conclude… 

UK giving during the September – November 2021 reporting period showed a promising upward trend in donations, reaching the highest point in a year. The opportunity to donate presented by the London Marathon and the return of fundraising in offices and schools was enthusiastically embraced.  

Linked to this is causes being front and centre – research into disease continued to attract the most donations partly related to the ongoing headlines about the growth in NHS waiting lists – a situation we are watching evolve at an alarming rate in the Australian healthcare system with the spread of Omicron.  

Finally, despite the changes many UK donors have experienced in their finances, there was a strong intention to give over the Christmas period. It will be interesting to see what eventuated… 


Enthuse provides online fundraising tools for charities. The agency was formed in 2009 and is located in London.  

Donor Pulse is an independent research project, conducted by RedFox Research on a quarterly basis. A nationally representative sample of 2,013 members of the UK public were surveyed about their attitudes to charity, willingness to donate and appetite to support good causes.  

For the full report click here. 


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