September 6, 2023

The Power of Giving: International Day of Charity

Author John Canady, Chief Executive Officer

The roots of modern charitable giving can be found in the innovative charitable practices of St Vincent De Paul, a Parisian priest who first brought together laypeople and clergy to deliver charitable works in 17th century Paris. It is in honour of St Vincent, Mother Teresa and other remarkable individuals who dedicated their lives to charity throughout history that the United Nations General Assembly pronounced 5th September 2012 the First International Day of Charity. Since then, it has grown into an annual celebration of global giving.

The International Day of Charity is both a celebration of the power of collective goodwill and a poignant reminder of how different the global social landscape would be without it. People across the world embrace the day as an opportunity to make a positive impact. Whether through volunteering, organising fundraisers, or making donations to charitable organisations, the day holds countless possibilities for philanthropic endeavours.

In the UK, charitable organisations like The Salvation Army and Barnardo’s have played pivotal roles in addressing social issues, tracing their beginnings back to the Victorian era. Today, 168,850 registered charities operate in England and Wales, always evolving, responding nimbly and effectively to social needs, natural disasters, economic crises, and military conflicts.

Despite the difficulties of post-pandemic recovery and rising costs of living, we are seeing more giving than ever. The average monthly charitable donation in the UK increased from £46 in 2019 to £60 in 2022, reflecting a growing commitment to charitable giving. Even though the typical donation to charity is reported to be around £20, the collective effect of these contributions is profound.

Beyond financial support, this year’s International Day of Charity highlights the critical role that volunteering plays in the operation of charities. Many of the 168,000 charities in England and Wales are heavily dependent upon the currently estimated 25 million people in the UK who volunteer at least once a year and the 16 million of whom do so at least once a month.

Philanthropic giving is a direct way to create real-world impact, and unlike the bureaucratic nature of government aid, it can act quickly and more flexibly. With centuries of experience and learning, charities have become experts at responding effectively to evolving situations, identifying challenges and meeting demands for specific support directly from communities. For example, in the devastating fires recently affecting Hawaii, communities on and off the island came together for rescue and recovery efforts within hours. In a similar situation in Europe, during the Greek Island fires earlier this summer, the local population and visitors leant on each other for immediate support while the international community rallied to bring help from outside.

Ultimately, the International Day of Charity is a reminder that charitable giving continues to be an integral force in shaping a brighter, more resilient future for all. No matter how small and powerless we might feel in the face of the growing challenges of our world, philanthropy gives us back our power to bring about transformative change.

About the Author

John Canady, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust UK, has 25 years of experience working across the business, nonprofit and government sectors. He specializes in creating and managing philanthropic funds for donors and family offices around the world who wish to base their philanthropy from the UK.