Eighty percent of Scottish charities rely on public donations to fund some or all of their activities. With demand soaring and public sector funding shrinking, these donations are more important than ever.
But have recent high-profile cases shaken people’s trust in charity fundraising practices?
It’s funny how others see you. Many countries view Scots as dour and canny skinflints. Even in popular culture we have Scrooge McDuck. The truth is that, far from being a nation of misers, Scotland regularly tops lists of the most generous nations.
The UK is ranked 4th in the World Giving Index for donating money. Within the UK, Scotland has the second highest proportion of charity givers, with more than 6 in 10 people giving to charity. And we’re second only to London when it comes to the actual amount we give.
The latest SCVO research into charity funding shows that income from donations has grown steadily in recent years, reaching an all-time high in 2013. This increase helped the sector meet growing demand and plug the gaping hole left by public sector funding cuts, ensuring that vital services could continue.
But we know that donations can also go down. Recent figures from NCVO show that across the rest of the UK, voluntary income dropped between 2012 and 2013. High living costs and low wages saw families cut back on non-essentials, and as a result charities took a hit.
So why has Scotland bucked the trend?
Scottish people have kept their connections with charities. Scotland has the highest number of charities per head of population in the UK. People are donating to large charities which help those less fortunate, or provide services such as homeless accommodation or cancer support.
Charities are at the heart of our communities, particularly in rural areas. Donations to small charities are very strong, with people tending to give to local groups they know well.
High public confidence is why trust and transparency is so important. It’s also why recent media coverage around poor fundraising practices is so damaging. The media loves negative stories – after all, bad news sells.
But it’s not good enough to blame the public for believing what they read. Instead, we have to addresses practices which paint charities in a bad light. We must also do more to help people outwith the sector see us and our work more clearly.
SCVO wants to gain a more balanced picture of the state of fundraising in Scotland today. We’re looking to hear from a wide range of people – the general public, charities and fundraisers – to get a fully rounded view of fundraising.
Our review offers a rare chance for everyone to have their say on a vitally important issue.