Press Release

Londoners giving less money and time to charity sparks calls for “whole city” approach to help those in need

A review of philanthropy in the capital has found that Londoners are giving less money and time to charity than they were five years ago, sparking calls for a “whole city” approach to encourage and coordinate giving across London.

Centre for London’s report, More, better, together: A strategic review of giving in London, reviewed the scale and impact of five forms of charitable giving, including giving by the general public, giving by the wealthiest Londoners, corporate philanthropy and social investment.

The report found that over the last five years, there’s been a decline in giving and volunteering by the general public:

  • The proportion of Londoners who regularly donate to charity has declined by 8 per cent over the last five years, from 81 per cent in 2013-14 to 73 per cent in 2017-18, and is now 2 percentage points lower than in the rest of England (75 per cent).
  • The proportion of Londoners who volunteer at least once a month has fallen by 3 per cent, from 24 per cent in 2013-14 to 21 per cent in 2017-18.
  • Meanwhile, the number of Londoners with more than £24.2 million in assets rose by 41 per cent between 2005 and 2015. While the report estimates that collectively London’s millionaires give in the region of £1 to £1.5 billion annually, (with as much as half of these gifts going to universities) it simultaneously highlights a disconnect between the wealth of many Londoners and their engagement with philanthropy, particularly giving that focuses on London causes.

The report also found that London’s local charities and charitable activities are unevenly spread across the city, placing significant pressure on boroughs in outer London where poverty rates have been increasing. This is reflected by two trends:

First, while the number of charities focused on London causes increased in some inner London boroughs, such as Hackney (+7 per cent) and Tower Hamlets (+8 per cent), most saw a fall in the five years to 2015. This was most pronounced in outer London boroughs, including Croydon (-7 per cent) and Kingston (-5 per cent).

Second, although corporate philanthropy is growing, giving time and skills tends to be overly concentrated around central London locations and on particular causes. This can make it extremely difficult for charities and grassroots organisations based in outer London boroughs to attract corporate support.

Against this backdrop, the report proposes that London should adopt a “whole city” approach to giving – where leading public sector, business and civic organisations work together to develop a shared understanding of philanthropic priorities and ensure resources are used effectively in areas of need. The recommendations include:

  • Develop understanding of need: London’s giving leaders (including the Mayor of London, the City of London, London Funders, Trust for London, London Councils, London’s two Community Foundations, and the new London Plus) should develop a richer understanding of need in the capital.
  • Encourage all Londoners to give: Londoners’ generosity has been best expressed in recent years when galvanised around a particular event or cause. London’s giving leaders should establish an annual London Giving Day.
  • Promote legacy giving among property owners: Only one in twenty Londoners leaves a charitable legacy. London’s giving leaders should review how best to increase the proportion of Londoners leaving a legacy, with a particular focus on property owners, many of whom have seen their wealth increase dramatically in recent decades.
  • Support for charities focused on London issues: Public spending cuts have often hit smaller charities hardest. London civic leaders should therefore help SME charities build up their fundraising capacity, with funded advice and training programmes.

Ben Rogers, Director, Centre for London said:

“Londoners’ generosity in recent years has been galvanised around a particular event or cause. The outpouring of public support in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire was a humbling example of this.

“But despite these moments of generosity, London’s charities and those they help are feeling the impact of a decline in regular volunteering and giving.

“We know that people and organisations are more likely to give when they are confident that their time and money will be well-directed. That’s why we think the greatest opportunity lies in encouraging a more joined-up approach to giving across the city.

“At the centre of this, the Mayor should step up his role as a champion of giving, celebrating philanthropists and volunteers, and promoting giving across the capital – especially to London-focused charities and local causes.”

James Banks, Director, London Funders said:

“Centre for London’s report is brimming with great ideas for how we can work together across funding sectors, alongside the generosity of Londoners, to better direct time and money where it’s needed most.

“London Funders’ members collectively invest hundreds of millions of pounds into London’s civil society each year.

“We welcome this report’s recommendations to work with corporate and individual philanthropists to grow this further, and in particular to look at how London’s local charities can better access the resources they need to enable Londoners to live better lives.”



  • Proportion of Londoners who regularly volunteer and donate to charity: Official statistics from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Office for Civil Society Community Life Survey. In 2016/17 the survey discontinued the face-to-face collection and moved fully to a self-completion online and paper mixed method approach.
  • Millionaires: Knight Frank (2017). The Wealth Report 2017. 11th Edition. Those with £24.2 million ($30 million) are classified as ultra-high-net worth individuals.
  • Rising poverty rates in outer London: Bosetti, N (2015), Housing and Inequality in London, Centre for London
  • Changes to London’s local charities: Centre for London and Third Sector Research Centre analysis of Charity Commission data, undertaken in 2017/18
  • Charitable legacies: nfp Synergy (2017). Facts and figures: Legacies for charities. London: nfp Synergy. Retrieved from: free-report/facts-and-figures-legacies-charities