If we all gave one per cent of income, the sky would be the limit

Francis Davis, a policy adviser on the big society, has published a paper called The Diamond Dividend in which he estimates that £4bn more could be raised for charity if people gave one per cent of their income.

Only £4bn? He is no doubt wise to be restrained in his estimates, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on a recent survey suggests the sum could be a great deal more.

At the end of last year, the survey by the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations indicated that 27 million adults gave an average of £31 in the year 2008-9.

If, for the sake of argument, each of those donors earned £20,000 and gave one per cent, their gifts would total £200 rather than £30 – a six-fold increase that would take total individual donations from £10bn to £60bn. The latter figure is getting on for twice the total income of the sector in recent years.

Back to the real world: when you remember what’s coming in the emergency Budget, and the likely effect on people’s pockets, there’s every chance giving will slip rather than climb in the coming months.

But you never know. Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, told Third Sector before the election that he was going to give one per cent this year. Davis wants to Queen to urge everyone to do the same – a sort of ‘one gives one per cent’ campaign.
Let’s not get carried away. For the next year or two, the sector will do well to continue to receive the current level of individual giving. Whoever finds the key to a significant increase will be a good candidate for the Nobel prize.

(Footnote: Hurd said he would ask his children to select the causes he gives to. Martin Brookes, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital, did the same and confessed to regretting it when his daughter chose a donkey sanctuary…watch this space.)