Religious people give more often – but they also prioritise different causes

Rishad Dsouza
May 05, 2021, 7:05 AM UTC

Charity is one of the foundational principles of religions worldwide. But does that make people who practise a religion likelier to give to charity compared to those who don’t?

Looking at adults in the UK, data from YouGov Profiles reveals that people who practise a faith with any amount of regularity (from major holiday observers to regular worshippers) do show a higher tendency to be charitable when compared to their non-practising or irreligious counterparts.

Asked about their likelihood to donate to a charity in the next three months, three in four (76%) religious people indicated a likelihood to do so, demonstrating a significantly higher propensity than the irreligious and non-practising group (56%).

The difference may be at least partially explained by the fact that 17% of people in the religious group cited their religious belief as a motivation towards donating directly to a charity.

Aside from being more likely to give, are there differences in the types of good causes religious people support? The data suggests that there are.

They are more likely to support all popular causes than irreligious or non-practising believers – but they also have different priorities too. For example, children and young people come out top for the former group but only third for non-practisers, who prioritise health and medicine charities. Poverty relief is the third most popular cause for the religious group, but doesn’t feature at all for the wider group. On the flipside, environmental/conservation charities feature in the top five causes for this group but they aren’t one of the five most popular causes among the religious.

So while it’s useful for fundraisers to understand that the actively religious give more often, it’s also vital to note that they give differently too.

Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data referenced is based on a sample size of 2,432 to 16,111 people. Online interviews were conducted between April 2020 – April 2021. Profiles data is nationally representative and weighted by age, gender, education, region, and race. Learn more about YouGov Profiles.