11 May 2023

Charities feel the pinch as cost of living forces Brits to give up on giving

  • Six in ten Brits have cancelled or cut down on charitable giving since the crisis began, new research reveals 
  • Charities face ‘perfect storm’ of rising energy bills, falling donations, and surge in demand for services 
  • Nationwide to give £4m to charities and raises individual grant from £50,000 to £60,000 to help with inflation 

More than six in ten Brits (63%) have cancelled or cut down on their monthly charitable donations since the cost-of-living crisis began, new research by Nationwide reveals.  

It comes as Britain’s biggest building society prepares to give £4 million to charities across the UK this year – bringing the total donated in grants to £22 million over five years. The Society has increased the maximum individual grant from £50,000 to £60,000 to help charities cope with the increased pressure on their finances. 

The Nationwide Community Grants poll reveals people have cut back on charity by an average of £13 a month. Of those who haven’t yet cut down, over a quarter (27%) say that they won’t be able to give more to charity than they already do. Other areas Brits have cut back on include takeaways (51%), going out for drinks or meals (49%) and spending on little luxuries (44%). 

Charities are still feeling the pinch at this time, facing increased energy bills and a surge in demand for their services – one in three people (32%) have needed help from a charity since the crisis began, with the top reasons being money worries (37%), mental health (29%), and housing (20%). Nearly four in ten (38%) are worried about losing their home in the next five years. 

When it comes to charitable giving, seven in ten (69%) of those surveyed believe that big companies have a responsibility to support local communities, with 42 per cent saying that business depends on profits from wider society and should give back.  

The Nationwide Community Grants programme aims to help at-risk people into a place fit to call home and support those struggling with housing. The regional programme has run annually since 2017, with the unique twist that the decision of where to donate is made by volunteer panels comprised of local Nationwide members and colleagues. 

To date it has supported 540 housing charities and projects, from Age UK’s intergenerational living project in Gloucestershire to Vision Care for Homeless People in London. Charities are matched with a local branch for ongoing support, such as volunteering or fundraising. 

Case study - IMPAKT Housing & Support

The Community Services Team at IMPAKT Housing & Support in Bedford work to tackle food insecurity with their free to use Community Larder project.  

When the project was founded, the larder initially saw demand from people struggling with their housing, including sofa surfers as well as street homeless people. Since the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis the demand has changed, and all kinds of people are now struggling to make ends meet.  

“We saw demand spike up during the COVID pandemic, but we always expected it to ease at some point.” said Babz Astle, Community Services Manager at IMPAKT Housing & Support. “We’re now seeing at least 200 people using our service every week, including families and working couples who don’t qualify for any benefits but whose salaries don’t stretch to something as basic as food.” 

The donation of £50,000 from Nationwide’s Community Grants programme has helped cover the costs of salaries for the next year, enabling the charity to focus more on making sure that people can eat. 

“There’s a common misconception that we get the food we give out for free, but that’s not the case.” said Babz. “We pay subscriptions to organisations that get us good food that would otherwise go to waste, and since the pandemic ended supermarket donation boxes have been emptier than they were.”  

“We really depend on people’s donations and that’s why we were really glad to receive a Nationwide Community Grant for £50,000 to help us keep up our work. If you’re struggling with food, please get in touch – we don’t ask any questions there is no criteria and we will always do our best to help you.”  

Case study - Simon Community NI

Maureen Wilson and the team at Simon Community Northern Ireland are helping tackle homelessness in Belfast head-on. The charity provides over 460 warm, safe beds to people across Northern Ireland who have nowhere else to go. 

A donation of over £48,000 from Nationwide’s Community Grants programme is helping Simon Community NI team with their Women’s Advocacy Project, which helps Maureen act as a dedicated advocate for women struggling with their housing in the local area.  

On a day-to-day basis, Maureen speaks to women to make sure they’re getting the support they need, helps out with health issues, makes sure that women feel comfortable and happy, and ensures single mothers in the temporary accommodation services take a break from the stress of making ends meet. 

Donations have been falling in recent months as the cost-of-living crisis bites, while demand for Simon Community NI services has only increased. The team are keen to engage with the local community to build awareness, advocacy and support, whether that’s through donations or by recruiting more passionate volunteers. 

“The aim of this service is to help women feel safe and secure while accessing Simon Community NI temporary accommodation services, empowering and educating women to enable them to make positive decisions that will have an impact on their lives, and help break down any barriers that they may face as women facing homelessness.” said Maureen Wilson, Simon Community NI Women’s Advocate. 

Kirsty Hall, Social Investment Manager at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Over the past five years, our Community Grants programme has seen £22 million go to 540 housing charities and projects, with around 118,000 people’s lives changed for the better. With charitable donations falling in the cost-of-living crisis and increased demand for the services of housing charities, it’s never been more important for socially conscious businesses to step in and help bridge the funding gap for many charities.” 

Notes to editors

Notes to Editor:  

Helping people into homes is central to why Nationwide started over a century ago, and it's the reason we launched our Community Grants programme: a chance for local organisations with great housing solutions to apply for grants of up to £60,000. Applications are shortlisted and then our regional Community Boards, made up of our members and colleagues, come together to award the grants. The next round of funding opens on 25 April 2023. For more information visit www.nationwidecommunitygrants.co.uk 

All Community Grant applications are shortlisted and then put to a Board of members and colleagues to vote on which charities should receive a Community Grant. Applications have to support at least one of our social priorities: preventing people from losing their home, helping people into a home, and supporting people to thrive at home.   

Nationwide Community Grants operate across the UK in 11 defined regions – Central, West, East, London, South East, South West, North West & North Midlands, North East, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Up to 40 charities can apply in each region, after which time charities can no longer apply. The application window closes on 26 May. 

About Nationwide Building Society 

Nationwide is the world's largest building society. It is owned by its 16 million members and exists to serve their needs. The Society is one of the UK’s largest providers for mortgages, savings and current accounts, as well as being a major provider of ISAs, credit cards, personal loans, insurance and investments

As a mutual organisation, Nationwide Building Society uses its unique position to help rebuild society by making a positive difference to the lives of its members and the communities in which they live. It is why Nationwide still values a branch network, supports communities through charitable grants, and places a premium on helping people thrive financially – whether helping them into a home of their own or giving them the financial support they need. Taking a stand and making a difference is what sets Nationwide apart. None of which would be possible without the dedicated service of its 18,000 employees.