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NEWS15 March 2017

‘No one really knows’ how Brexit will affect charitable giving

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UK - Charities Aid Foundation head of research Susan Pinkney says that ‘no one really knows’ how Brexit will impact charitable giving once article 50 triggers and divorce from the EU kicks off, but the signs are not as pessimistic as doomsayers might imagine.

Pinkney was talking at a panel session at this year’s MRS conference, Impact 2017, during which chair Alison Camps, deputy chair of Quadrangle, described the nation’s response to Brexit is as if it were a comedy. 

“This idea that everything will be OK in the end,” she said. “If Brexit is a comedy, it feels like the bastard lovechild of ‘Benny Hill’ and ‘Dad’s Army’. Who knows where this will all end up?”

Her lack of certainty was shared by Pinkney, who said: “No one knows anything, and that’s key.”

The Charities Aid Foundation is the UK’s eighth biggest charity and informs the charity sector as a whole via policy, campaign and research work and liaises with other charities and Number 10.

Pinkney shared some research findings: that 55% of charity CEOs expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their own charity, 52% feel that their general cause area would be adversely affected and 60% feel that their beneficiaries would be hit.

Around a third ( 29%) believe that there will be a decrease in donations, half thought donations would remain the same and the remainder did not know. “Past events have shown that the impact of major economic events on charitable giving is limited,” she said.

Meanwhile, political upheaval in the US has had a surprising effect given the new president’s stance on internationalism. “Research recently out from the States showed that international charities’ donations from the US have gone up since Trump came in,” Pinkney said. “The evidence is that people have almost responded antagonistically.”

She added that people on this side of the Atlantic have become more politically engaged since the referendum, with 30% saying that are inclined to be more active in social and political causes.

“We’re one of the most generous populations in the world and consistently come out top in Europe and globally. The feeling is that charitable giving is inelastic. If you look at the past, then I’d say there’s nothing to worry about.”

Pinkney was joined on stage by Briony Gunstone, associate director at YouGov, who said that some charity sectors might have more to worry about than others.

“In recent months we’ve seen media criticism of charities, in particular about their campaigning work being too political, attacks on the idea of foreign aid and some criticism specifically drawing a link between foreign aid the EU.”

But, she added, YouGov data indicates that there are no signs of change. “Overall the picture remains optimistic before and after the referendum.”

Clearly there are distinctions between ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ voters, with the former more likely to donate to international development charities and the former to military charities.

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