The OECD is predicting slow growth for the UK economy in 2018 and 2019. Short of a miracle, times will be hard and get harder for some. So will those with more wealth give more away? On past experience, probably not. Philanthropic giving today is like a luxury good. People give more when their income increases. And it’s not only about personal income. Our economic indicators affect the value of charities’ income from legacies, charitable endowments and corporate donations. It is a paradox of philanthropy that at the point where need increases, the amount given falls. Our own spending falls too.
This is not news. A historical battery of studies in the UK and US demonstrates the direct link between income and giving. The challenge for philanthropists is whether these trends are inevitable – or can we change the patterns of giving? What would make us do this? It is sobering that while the absolute amount we give is related to our absolute income, the proportion we give away is not. Poorer groups donate a higher proportion of their income than the better-off. The ONS shows that in 2018 we have increased our spending on quiche, raspberries, mashed potato, leggings, media players, body moisturiser and soft play sessions. Few of these are essentials. So isn’t there room for increasing our spending on giving?