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Hot Spots, Cold Spots: What’s happening to London’s local charities?

This paper looks at recent trends in charities focused on London issues, and paints a complex picture. It is the first publication of a larger strategic review of giving in London, which will explore recent developments in charitable giving and volunteering in London, and ways in which the capital can give more, give better and give together.

London has been presented as a ‘hot spot’ for charitable activity, in contrast to ‘cold spots’ or ‘charity deserts’ in other parts of the country.

While the number of charities based in London has risen by 7 per cent – in sharp contrast to England as a whole where the number of charities fell by 1 per cent – the picture looks very different when looking only at London based charities focused on London.

Analysing Charity Commission data, we’ve found that the capital has significantly fewer locally based charities than the rest of the country. Moreover:

  • Local charities are unevenly spread across the city. The City of London has a particularly large number of London-focused charities, but other inner London boroughs are also well-endowed. However some outer London boroughs have less than one local charity per 1000 residents – way below the English average.
  • While London’s population has grown considerably, the number of charities focused on London causes plateaued during the five years to 2015.
  • While some inner-London boroughs, such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets, saw increases in local charities, most saw a fall. The fall has been most pronounced in outer London boroughs.
  • The decline in outer London charities is particularly concerning as poverty rates have been increasing.

While Charity Commission data does not allow us to establish whether the relative decline in the number of local charities serving Londoners has been accompanied by a decline in charitable funding, other evidence suggests it has.

“London is sometimes presented, as a ‘hotspot’ for charitable activity, in contrast to ‘coldspots’ or ‘charity deserts’ in other parts of the country.

But our analysis shows that while there is some truth in this distinction, it’s not sufficiently sensitive to the difference between where charities are based and where they operate.

Parts of the city, and the people who live in it, are in desperate need of support. Yet the number of locally focused organisations seems to be in decline.”

Ben Rogers, Director at Centre for London

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