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Charity donations still suffering from recession

Donations to charity increased last year but still remain well below their pre-recession levels, research showed today.

Britons gave £10.6 billion to good causes in 2009, £400 million more than during the previous year, but still well down on the pre-recession peak of £11.3 billion, according to the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

There was also a slight increase in the number of people who gave money on a regular basis, with this rising by 2% to 56%.

Cash remains the most popular way of giving money to charity, accounting for 50% of all donations, followed by direct debit at 29%, buying goods from charities at 25% and buying raffle tickets from them at 20%.

But only 40% of people use Gift Aid when they give to charity, under which the charity can reclaim basic rate income tax on the donation, broadly unchanged from the previous year.

The Charities Aid Foundation estimates that £750 million is lost each year through people not taking advantage of the scheme.

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: "Many charities are very concerned about their funding in the coming year ranging from those who help the homeless and unemployed to museums and galleries.

"The best thing taxpayers can do to support their favourite causes at no extra cost to themselves is to tick the Gift Aid box. If everybody used Gift Aid next year donations would return to pre-recession levels."

Medical research charities continue to be the most popular good causes, accounting for 32% of all donations by number and 17% by value.

They are followed by charities which help children and young people at 25% of donations by number, and overseas aid at 24%, up from just 15% to 16% during the previous three years.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "This research is a welcome reminder of the British public's willingness to help those in need, even when they are under significant financial pressures.

"However, with looming departmental spending cuts this is no time for complacency and charities will need to think carefully about how to maximise giving in the unpredictable times ahead."

GfK NOP questioned 1,005 people during January.