Charities suffer as businesses tighten purse strings


The Dutch spent considerably less on charitable causes in 2022 and that is mainly down to businesses, a new report by VU University researchers shows.

In total, the Netherlands spent just 0.62% of GDP on charity, the lowest it has ever been. Businesses are mostly to blame, tightening the purse strings by some 20% compared to pandemic year 2020.

“It is clear that businesses have been contributing a lot less, particularly financially,” co-author of the report professor  of philanthropy René Bekkers told the Financieele Dagblad.

The number of contributing businesses fell, the two-yearly probe showed, and some 61% of the businesses did not contribute to charity at all.

A total of €5.3 billion went to charity in the shape of money or goods in 2022 compared to €5.6 billion in 2020, or 0.7% of GDP.

Households have been more generous, the researchers found, with gifts going up from €2.1 billion in 2020 to €2.2 million in 2022, a result of a campaign for Ukraine which raised €184 million. However, the impact of inflation means households have also contributed less than in 2020.

The apparent reluctance of businesses to give to charity is the most prominent result of the probe and may be down to financial insecurity in 2022 or rising inflation, the researchers said.

Other factors may be at play, such as a lack of trust in the way charities manage funds. Almost three in 10 businesses were critical about the way charities work, the report said, with half complaining about “wasted money” and “ineffectiveness”.

The next few years will show if the downturn is a trend or a temporary blip, the researchers said.

The researchers also pointed out that giving money to charities often depends on one person in the organisation. In some 85%, the director or CEO decides and if that person loses faith in the charities the impact on the willingness to contribute can be great, the researchers said.

Health and sports

Although just 39% of businesses contributed to charity compared to 61% in 2020, the businesses that did support good causes gave generously, particularly to health and sports charities.

Businesses also contributed by making staff available to participate in social initiatives in company time. The organisation for small and medium-sized businesses MKB said volunteering for a good cause by staff has risen from 17% to 29%.

But according to Bekkers, the projects businesses propose are not always a good fit for staff. Better thought out projects would increase staff enthusiasm and be more effective, he said.

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