IN tough economic times, when people have to tighten their purse strings, charitable giving often slides down the list of priorities.
Figures revealed this week have indicated more people are giving to charity, but the average amount being donated has fallen.
And sadly, Blackpool is not bucking the trend. Leading charity Cancer Research, which spends £19m in the North West each year, says donations in the town are more than 50 per cent below target.
Bina De Wilde, of Cancer Research’s retail office, said: “Nationally, things don’t look too bad, but in Blackpool we are 50 per cent down. It does not mean people in Blackpool are making any less effort than anywhere else, but the town is really struggling.
“These figures relate to cash donations, but 90 per cent of our income comes from stock donations in our shops.
“If people in Blackpool are finding it hard to donate money, have a root in the wardrobe, and bring any unwanted items in to our shops.”
But on a more positive note, both Race for Life and community fund-raising have continued to increase their incomes. This year, 2,862 women took part in Race for Life, compared to 2,578 women last year, raising around £114,000 – £14,000 more than in 2010.
Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman in the North West, said: “The amount of money raised in Blackpool through community fund-raising over the past 12 months has risen from £69,000 to £96,000.
“It’s thanks to the generosity of our supporters that Cancer Research UK is able to continue to fund life-saving work.”
The survey, carried out by The Office for National Statistics, showed an extra 1.1 million people made donations in the UK in the year to April, but the average donation fell by a pound.
Charities Aid Foundation chief executive John Low said it was “encouraging” that more people were supporting charities despite sharp rises in the cost of living.
But he added: “The economic downturn means many more people are turning to them for help, and charities themselves are struggling against rising costs, so every pound is really needed.”
Medical charities were the most popular causes, with 11 million people donating to medical charities and nearly eight million to hospitals. Children’s causes were also popular, however fewer people gave to charities supporting arts, sports and the environment.
Major Ian Harris, of Blackpool’s Salvation Army, said their volunteers had put more effort into collections this year.
He said: “This year we have done a number of different fundraising pushes. The main one is in London and we don’t get to know much about that. But in September, we went door to door asking locals for help towards our main social work, and fewer people are giving and those who do give less.
“People say they have their chosen charities, identifying one or two, and not donating to others.
“In the past, people would dig deep, and find a couple of spare pounds to give to every charity, but since the recession they have become more selective.
“We raised the same amount of money as last year, but I would say we had to put 20 per cent more effort in to break even.
“So you could say we were 20 per cent down on last year – we expect a similar trend over the Christmas period as well.”
Major Harris said fewer people were donating toys to this year’s Christmas gift campaign, although the Christmas Coast appeal, in conjunction with ITV’s Daybreak, had proved successful.
He added: “We tend to reach a target audience of older people who have benefited from us in the past, and those with a long-found respect for the Salvation Army.
“Sadly it is the forty-somethings who have been hugely affected by the recession and we are grateful for what people do give.”
Jane Molyneux, of Trinity Hospice, said the last year had been particularly challenging.
She said: “The last 12 months were tough for Trinity Hospice.
“Rising costs, coupled with a tough fundraising climate, means income was significantly less than expenditure and this is expected to continue next year.
“The hospice is working to look at new ways to increase income, and we ask our supporters to help us through these difficult times.”