Kiwis dig less deep for charity

Kiwi generosity is in decline as charities continue to struggle for volunteers and donations.

The World Giving Index, which compares countries' charitable behaviour in giving money, time and helping a stranger, found New Zealand was slightly less giving than in 2010 when New Zealand and Australia were found to be the most generous, with 57 per cent of people doing some charitable work.

However, last year's data show New Zealand, while remaining on 57 per cent, fell to fourth place behind the United States, Ireland and Australia. Madagascar, Burundi and Greece were the least generous.

New Zealand ranked 14th for donating money, 11th for volunteering and eighth for helping a stranger. Kiwi women were far more charitable when it came to giving money, 70 per cent to 55 per cent.

A Sunday Star-Times poll of 763 readers reflected the World Giving Index, with 53 per cent of respondents having changed the way they donate in the past 12 months. More than half of those who had changed their habits admitted to donating less money.

Readers said "less money to go around, so donating less", "I find the street-corner clipboard paid collectors very confronting - I will never sign up for a monthly debit - I'd rather give money to lots of different charities" and "there are so many worthy charities - no matter what I give I feel guilty".

Fundraising Institute of New Zealand chief executive James Austin says that, despite the fall, New Zealand hasn't suffered any greater than other parts of the world.

"There are other parts like the United States which have a higher and longer tradition of philanthropy because they have a much smaller welfare net to protect their citizens," he said. "The difference [in the ranking] between the top few nations is quite subjective."

Austin even said it wasn't relevant to include New Zealand as one of the most generous countries in the world.

"When you start boiling it down, even though they are very sophisticated in the way they put their statistics together, everything from exchange rates has an impact on it," he said. "So external comparisons can be misleading. The key thing is though, are New Zealanders being less generous than they were in the past? And the answer is yes."

Austin says charities are applying radical techniques to acquire donations, and it's the economy to blame.

"You could almost compare generosity with retail spending to some extent and that's down too," he said. "Charities in the past, before the financial crisis, were able to open up and the money came through the door. Now they have got to physically go out and find it."

However, these radical techniques have opened up the demographic of donors. "The traditional profile of a donor in New Zealand is female, middle to older age and very involved in the community or church. But what we've noticed recently is that young people like texting, electronic banking and the modern things, and dare I say it, they are quite extravagant with their credit cards.

"When you see these people with clipboards in the street signing you up for direct debits for so much a month, that's been the fastest growth for fundraising for charities."

Sunday Star Times