What does the 2017 CAF World Giving Index Report mean for Australia?

According to the 2017 Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index Report ”the proportion of people across the world who reported donating money in 2016 is the lowest seen for three years”. After the high point of last year’s results, why are humans across the globe less likely to help each other out, and what can you or I do to reverse the trend?

The CAF World Giving Index is the only global philanthropy study of its kind, so there’s no parallel with which to cross reference trends or data. However, the data, gathered from the Gallup World Poll which captures research from 139 countries to represent around 95% of the world’s population, is as complete as realistically possible. The subsequent analysis follows commonly agreed statistical methodologies and is deemed fair and equitable to all countries surveyed. Therefore it’s safe to trust the report’s findings as a reasonable representation of worldwide generosity.

The results

Overall, developed countries showed a decline in generous behaviour while Africa was the only continent to improve. Kenya in particular stands out with an 8% yearly improvement and ranking 3rd - the same spot Australia held last year.

The 2017 top 10

Developed countries (incl. Australia) helped strangers, donated & volunteered less than in the previous year

Developed countries (incl. Australia) helped strangers, donated & volunteered less than in the previous year

  1. Myanmar

  2. Indonesia

  3. Kenya

  4. New Zealand

  5. USA

  6. Australia

  7. Canada

  8. Ireland

  9. United Arab Emirates

  10. Netherlands

There are three yes/no questions asked to determine the overall scores:

“Have you…

  1. ...helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?

  2. ...donated money to a charity?

  3. ...volunteered your time to an organisation?”

Nothing is perfect

It’s important to remember that this report only shows a limited window into the world’s giving activities. A myriad of cultural, economic and political factors interplay to muddy the waters, only three binary factors are recorded, they’re limited to social more than environmental actions, sample populations are never 100% representative of an entire nation, and how one country ranks against another presents a one dimensional view of things. But it’s still the best picture we have for now.

The introduction to the report touches on some of these points, such as explaining why Myanmar consistently ranks at the most generous country (due to their tradition of regular giving to Theravadic Buddhist monks) and notes the survey was carried out well before Donald Trump was elected (we will be interested to see if that event can be correlated to a change in America’s results in the 2018 report).

The good news for Australia

We’re 10th most volunteery* country

Australia just scraped into the ‘Top 10 countries by participation in volunteering time’ list for the first time since this survey started in 2010, at #10 with 40% of respondents reported to have engaged in volunteering activity in the previous month.

Although it’s exciting to see Aussies recognised for their volunteering, it’s important to remember that rankings are relative - our placement in the top 10 comes from a decline in volunteering activity from other countries. Our actual levels remain stable over the past 5 years.

*[”volunteery” might not be in the dictionary, but you know exactly what it means.]

Oceania is the most giving continent

This includes just Australia and New Zealand of course, two countries with a high score and no other countries to drag the average number down. Much like having only the Wallabies and All Blacks in a fantasy rugby union team.

The bad news for Australia

We’re donating less money

Our score in this regard dropped 10% from the previous year’s report, resulting in us falling out of the top 5 overall ranking. For the donating money scale alone, Australia is the 9th most generous, with 63% of those surveyed having given money in the previous month. The Gallup data doesn’t include the donated amount, but it would be reasonable to infer the average total charity donations per Australian have declined too. Interestingly, Australian women tend to give significantly more than men.

So what does this mean for Australia - and for you?

So what can you, reading this right now, do to increase the good in Australia, and the world? It turns out, quite a lot.

  • Volunteer - If you’re not already a regular volunteer, the chances are you’ve considered helping out. A good place to start is browsing charities looking for help.

  • Payroll giving - In Australia we don’t get the up-front tax benefits of Gift Aid in the UK (effectively boosting donations by up to 25%), but the next best option is pre-tax donations via your employer. Not only is it a ‘set and forget’ option, you’re not taxed up-front when giving to DGR registered charities, plus it’s immensely valuable to the organisation you’re supporting; regular income smooths out their otherwise spiky fundraising income

  • Be more socially conscious - We’re all busy. Whether it’s work deadlines, family logistics or the ever increasing pace of life, it can feel like there’s never enough time. This ‘scarcity’ mindset is easy to fall into, and it can lead to selfish introspection. It’s important to take the time to look around and lift oneself beyond those immediate worries. Imagine what others are dealing with and offer to lend a hand. Pick up that piece of plastic from the beach - doing so leads by example, reminding others that they too can make a difference. Ask your friend if they’re ok. Take your neighbour’s bins out. Pay for someone’s bus ride. That person’s day will be improved by knowing someone cares.

Charity begins at home. Or does it?

This old saying is often misused to excuse a lack of generosity to those overseas. In fact, the original meaning implies that being kind at home leads to generosity beyond - not that being caring ends at your doorstep. So yes, charity does begin at home, but it’s up to each of us to make it spread into our workplaces, our schools and our social lives.

A final thought

There’s an easy way to double our collective generosity: get a mate involved! Who’s going to be your +1 on your next act of goodness? Once you’ve decided, why not send this on to them and make a plan.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a call from Gallup asking about your giving habits, and you’re able to answer ‘yes’ to all three questions?