This briefing presents information on third sector fundraising, individual giving and donations in Scotland, covering the years 2012 and 2013.

Scotland has the second highest proportion of charity givers in the UK, with more than 6 in 10 people giving to charity, and is second only to London when it comes to the actual amount given.

Income from donations has grown steadily in recent years, reaching an all-time high in 2013. This increase helped the sector to meet growing demand and plug the hole left by public sector funding cuts, thus ensuring that vital services could continue.

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Key findings

  • 80% of Scottish charities receive some form of donations and fundraised income from the general public.
  • Donations account for 11% of third sector income.
  • In 2013 donations rose to an all-time high of £537 million, growing by £66 million between 2012 and 2013. This helped plug the gap left by £200 million of public sector funding cuts.

Third sector in Scotland - income raised from general public in 2012 and 2013

  • According to CAF research, people in Scotland gave the second highest average amount (£16 per month) after London, and have the second highest level of giving by population proportion at 61%.
  • In recent years very large donations from wealthy philanthropic individuals to trusts have driven much of the growth. The Wood Foundation and the Souter Trust alone account for half of the growth in donations income.
  • Income from the wider general public grew by a modest but healthy 9%, thanks to charities working hard to engage new donors and investing in new fundraising strategies.
  • The rise in individual giving has been a key factor in the sector’s overall income level remaining stable, making up for decreases in other types of funding.

Chart showing the amount of individual giving to charities in Scotland in 2013

  • While donations have grown and have helped to keep many services running, income from donations can fluctuate significantly year on year, impacting sustainability and exposure to risk.
  • Donations account for over two thirds of individual giving, and can cover anything from pennies put in a bucket to large sums donated online.
  • Legacies accounted for £83 million given to charity in 2013. While the actual number of legacies remains low in number, these gifts can be substantial.
  • Fundraised income makes up a further £86 million.
  • HMRC now pays around £1 billion to UK charities every year through Gift Aid.

Variations by organisation size

  • Individual giving is very important for smaller organisations, making up 39% of their total income and a figure of around £32 million.
  • Individual giving makes up only 6% of the total income of large organisations when taken as a group, as many are funded via other sources such as public sector contracts. However, this group receives the most in terms of amount donated – £153m – and most household name charities rely heavily on donations.

Graph showing how individual giving varies according to the size of a charitable organisation.  The broad finding is that smaller charities receive a greater percentage of their funding by individual giving than larger charities.


  • Although donations have risen, many charity accounts have shown a shift from straightforward gift ‘donations’ to fundraised income.
  • People still seem happy to give money to charity but want something in return, such as taking part in a fun event or concert, or receiving benefits in return for a membership fee.
  • There is some indication in the accounts that the public is less willing to commit to long-term regular giving, possibly due to wariness created by a volatile economic climate.
  • Some charity accounts show that while direct debits have decreased, more spontaneous, irregular giving has increased.
  • Many organisations mention in their trustee reports that they are having to work harder to raise funds. Many have set up new fundraising-subcommittees and have employed specialist fundraising staff. Others are trying out new ideas, such as setting up fundraising lotteries or opening charity shops.
  • Raising the organisation’s profile and investing in awareness raising remains a priority for many.
  • Charities spent around £328 million in 2013 on generating income, which is in part made up of fundraising costs. The figure also includes advertising and publicity costs, trading costs and investment management.

About this briefing

These findings are based on detailed analysis of a selected sample of 800 charity accounts and reports for the financial year 2012-13, combined with additional data on the ‘regulated third sector’, which includes:

  • 19,635 charities from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (the data excludes universities, churches, public sector-led bodies and private school etc)
  • 162 housing associations from the Scottish Housing Regulator
  • 107 credit unions from the Bank of England

This briefing does not include UK charities, but a substantial amount of Scottish individual giving goes to UK-wide charities such as Oxfam, RSPB, Barnardos, Macmillan and WWF. No exact figure currently exist for Scotland due to many charities not keeping separate Scottish accounts. It is estimated that Scotland accounts for  £1 billion of UK charities’ funds, with a significant proportion of this coming from donations to household name charities