21 April 2023
UK Charities

We British are generous when it comes to charitable giving, the second highest country in the world in making individual donations according to the Charities Aid Foundation.

The public response to major appeals for disaster relief abroad and emergencies at home is always remarkable. Although since 2020 the pandemic followed by the cost-of-living challenges have put charities under pressure as well.

The charitable sector is still a meaningful part of our economy, perhaps most obvious to us all as we see charity shops in our towns filling the empty spaces left behind as shoppers move online. There are over 11,000 charity shops, some 4% of all shops in the UK, helping recycle clothes to reduce the hundreds of thousands of tons of textiles thrown away each year.

The funds charities raise each year are remarkable - over £10.7 billion in 2021. Charities are regulated by the Charities Commission, whose chairman recently issued a warning shot across the bows of some charities accused of becoming overtly partisan in their campaigning zeal.

There are almost 170,000 charities in the U.K. with over 5 million people volunteering to help them in one way or another. CAF research shows that animal welfare continues to be the most popular cause area, attracting 28% of donors, followed by children or young people (23%) and medical research (21%).

But many individual charities are very small, often set up to commemorate a tragedy, which do great work to raise awareness of a condition to try to help others in a similar situation. There are over 60,000 charities with an income of less than £5,000 a year, some sitting on significant assets without the capacity to spend their capital securely.

Here in Shropshire, we have a relatively small number of locally focussed charities who do fabulous work helping good causes in the county. Two of our last High Sheriffs from South Shropshire have commendably used their year in office to try to encourage development of the community fund for Shropshire to help build an endowment to support good causes in our county.

I think this is an excellent idea. I am often asked where organisations or individuals can look for support. Many other counties have significant charities or foundations focussed on their local community, but with some notable exceptions, we do not here in Shropshire.

There is a strong case for charities to work with each other to pool resources. There may be a role for the Community Foundation for Shropshire to help manage smaller charities and receive legacies to build an endowment to fund good causes in our county.