Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index 2021 captures a moment in time

For over 10 years, the Charities Aid Foundation’s (CAF) World Giving Index has provided a much-needed barometer into the world of giving. First published in the wake of the global financial crisis, it offers a unique insight into global giving trends. Typically, the insights it provides are a springboard for a raft of articles about our own collective generosity compared to the rest of the world. But how does the CAF World Giving Index 2021 report differ, and how can we use the data to inspire giving?

Quite simply, this year’s report is unique; it has captured a moment in time like no other. The bulk of the data analysed was collected in February and March 2020, when the world was under significant social and environment stress from the COVID-19 health crisis. Here in Australia, we started the year differently, consumed by the Bushfires Crisis devastation. Inspiring incredible generosity from the Australian public and overseas donors, it dominated our attention and actions. Just a few months later, the local impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became more apparent.

Australia’s ranking in the World Giving Index 2021

The timing and severity of the pandemic’s consequences has varied significantly around the globe. Whilst lockdowns and restrictions have undoubtedly saved lives, they have also limited the way potential donors have been able to engage with charitable giving and community support. Consequently, because of their local situation at the time data was collected, many of the countries which typically featured in the Top 10 have fallen a lot further down the rankings in this report. For example, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands have all seen significant decreases in their Index scores.

Sitting at number 5, Australia is still firmly within the top 10 countries, with New Zealand at number 7 – the only high-income countries to do so. It’s worth noting that the resilience of giving in Australia and New Zealand should be considered within the context of the survey timing. Contributors were surveyed in the weeks immediately before the peak of the first wave of the pandemic locally. At the same time, the charitable response to the Bushfires Crisis 2020 was widespread and generous, with one in two Australians donating. Rather than denounce our ranking as an anomaly, it’s more fruitful to consider how we can continue this culture of giving in the future. Here we can learn from the international contributors.

Cultural traditions and their impact on giving

The rise of several new countries into the Top 10 is extremely interesting, such as Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Kosovo. Many of these nations have a long cultural history, and expectation around generosity. Maintaining its number 1 ranking from the previous report, Indonesia’s inherent culture of giving is likely to have played a significant role. Zakat, a traditional form of Islamic charity where proceeds are redistributed to the needy, is widely practiced. Similarly, the African philosophy often referred to as Ubuntu will undoubtedly play a part in their ranking. Ubuntu is best described as the capacity in an African culture to express compassion, reciprocity, dignity, humanity, and mutuality in the interests of building and maintaining communities with justice and mutual caring.

Encouragingly, the report indicates that willingness to give was not drastically diminished overall worldwide, the issue was around opportunity. With lockdowns affecting people and economies around the world, traditional in-person fundraising and volunteering opportunities, were often impossible. Whilst some charities, and activities, were able to swap to virtual executions, many were not. Consequently, the report outlines a genuine concern that the impact of this significant change in ability to engage with donors, and the subsequent funding crisis, will continue to impact charities longer term.

The World Giving Index 2021 provides insight into a way forward

What we do know about Australians and New Zealanders, is that when the going gets tough, we step up. We need to acknowledge that this mentality can, and should, exist outside of a crisis – the intention and willingness is there. By acknowledging the need for continued charitable giving and encouraging its inclusion in our home and workplace cultures, we will see that ranking retained. More importantly, we will be providing much-needed ongoing support for causes and communities in need. Importantly, employers are already recognising the need for engagement in workplace-based charitable giving, its role in attracting talent to corporates, and the benefits of fund-matching donations to support of charitable organisations. That commitment is of huge importance, the message it sends is positive, and powerful.

Learning from our global counterparts, where the cultural expectation around giving is inherent, the ability for a nation to respond not just to crisis situations, but demonstrate a continued commitment to charitable giving, is even more powerful. In Australia, and New Zealand, we will undoubtedly benefit from harnessing that outpouring of support in our homes and workplaces, making it part of our everyday behaviours. It’s this kind of culture shift that will cement out position in the CAF World Giving Index for 2021 and beyond.