Religious people give to charity more often, and prioritise CYP organisations

Religious texts in Islam laid on blue table
Image Credit: 
Ashkan Forouzani via Unsplash
10 May, 2021


People who have a religion give to charity more often than those with no faith, and their most prioritised cause is also different, according to YouGov Profiles analysis.

The top cause that religious people donated to in the last three months was children and young people, or CYP (14% had donated), followed by health and medicine (13%), poverty relief or faith-based organisations (both 12%), and animal charities (11%).  

In contrast, people of no faith prioritised their donations differently in the last three months: health and medicine and animal charities were the two top causes (9% for both), followed by CYP (7%), the environment or conservation (5%), and community causes (4%).

Faith-based donors are an important consideration for your voluntary or community group, as religion can be a big motivator in choosing to donate, particularly around religious festivals such as Ramadan or Christmas. Let’s explore some of the main religions in the UK and their giving principles:

  • For Muslims, charitable giving forms one of the five pillars of Islam – it’s called Zakat, and it means paying a tax to support people in need. This is compulsory, and there are restrictions on the type of cause. Muslims in poverty can actually apply for Zakat, and Muslims are encouraged to pay their Zakat during Ramadan. There’s also voluntary giving through Sadaqah, which doesn’t have to be in the form of money; you could volunteer your time or skills.
  • Sikhs are motivated to give money and local support through teachings about Vand Chhakna (a duty to share what you earn or have, to encourage compassion) and Sewa (selflessly serving the community). Every temple or gurdwara also has a free communal eating area attached, called a langar, where local people can be fed. There is also a campaign for Sikhs to be organ donors, and donor information is available in Punjabi.  
  • Jewish giving is called Tzedakah, and it covers charity and philanthropy. The goal isn’t just to give money but to build a relationship, putting in time and effort; the translation of the word Tzedakah means justice, fair action, or righteousness, rather than just charity. A charity box, or pushke, is also passed around at synagogue services to collect for those in need.
  • There are various Bible teachings for Christians and Catholics that show giving to others is an act of worship. Catholics emphasise that the promises they make at their baptism include serving all people. The Bible describes Jesus’ compassion for others, and there are parables such as The Good Samaritan that have passed into popular culture for non-Christians or non-Catholics as well.  

Now you've learned about the importance of giving in religious communities, it's time to look at what can fundraisers do to engage with these groups. These are our top tips:

  • Read up on the religions – do not come from a place of ignorance. A little basic research goes a long way.
  • Check your constitution and governing documents to ensure there is nothing preventing you in working with religious groups.
  • Build up an events calendar so you plan your communications well ahead of time.
  • Talk to faith leaders and community leaders and see how you can work together – it’s not just about money, but also volunteering schemes, mentoring and pro bono support.
  • Use relevant hashtags on social media to make sure you’re part of the conversation, but be respectful at all times – don’t use them on unrelated or non-specific posts.
  • Be aware that faith-based giving may need to be spent on a particular project or expense, and some things will be off-limits. This goes for faith-based foundations and trusts as well as communities themselves.

Faith-based giving should not be ignored as a way to fundraise and connect to communities, but it isn’t something to do half-heartedly. When you take the time and effort to involve your organisation in a faith group and reach new audiences, you can form strong relationships.