The scenario of informal donors in Italy before and during the Covid-19 emergency

In 2019, 55% of Italians declared that they had not made any donations in the previous 12 months, a figure up by 4 percentage points compared to 2018. In this context, the downward trend involved both informal donations – destined to organized nonprofit organizations or entirely informal organizations – and donations to non-profit organizations. 

With the advent of the pandemic, however, a new scenario has emerged: 30% of Italians (13/15 million individuals) made at least one donation during March and April Covid-19-related needs. During these months, only 8% of donations went through the intermediation of non-profits, while the rest was given directly to beneficiaries, Civil Protection, hospitals and social and health workers in the first place.

This is what emerges from Italiani Solidali 2019, the ongoing monitoring study of BVA Doxa on the world of non-profit and solidarity organizations in Italy inaugurated in 2001, and from the BVA Doxa tracking survey on the opinions and predictions of Italians at the time of the Coronavirus. In the tracking survey BVA Doxa collected data on the trend of donations, in particular on informal ones, made by Italians in the months during which the seriousness of the health emergency was at its highest.

THE PRE-COVID SCENARIO: INFORMAL DONORS DECREASE – A downward trend emerges from the comparison between the data collected in 2019 and those collected in the previous edition of Italiani Solidali, for all forms of informal donations considered in the research. Overall, the share of Italians who, in 2019, declared having made at least one informal donation drops from 44% to 41%. Informal donations to religious ceremonies were the most affected by the decrease – minus 4 percentage points, from 33% to 29%; these types of donations also represents the majority of all informal donations by Italians. The only increase refers to donations made to schools: from 1.3% in 2018 to 2% in 2019.

MORE PEOPLE CHOOSE NOT TO DONATE IN 2019 – This generalized downward trend does not only concern informal donations, but all Italian donors too. Only people who did not made any donations in the previous 12 months increased in 2019 compared to 2018 (going from 51% to 55%). On the other hand, all the other respondents in the sample decreased, both the “strong donors” – those who donate both to non-profits and informally, which dropped from 23% in 2018 to 22% in 2019 – and those who dedicate themselves exclusively to one type of donation: donations only to ONPs decrease from 5% in 2018 to 4% in 2019 and informal donations experienced a loss of two percentage points (from 21% in 2018 to 19% in 2019).

IDENTIKIT OF ITALIAN PRE-COVID DONORS – With respect to the socio-demographic profile of Italian donors, some important differences are confirmed in 2019 as well, especially between donors to non-profits and informal donors. When considering the distribution of the overall population, people who donated to non-profits are more women (60%), and even higher percentages of women are found among informal donors (62%). More than 1 Italian informal donor out of 2 (52%) is at least 55 years old, while the same age class among non-profit donors does not exceed 44%. On the contrary, in the age group between 35 and 54 years, donors to non-profitd prevail (44% vs 37% of informal donors). Younger Italians, aged between 15 and 34, are instead under-represented in both categories of donors (only about 1 in 10, both among non-profit and informal donors). Moreover, the two types of donors differ markedly when it comes to education: among the donors to non-profits the most educated people are 62%, compared to 56% among informal donors.

ANNUAL DONATIONS’ AMOUNT – The average annual donations’ amount decreases for both type of donors, despite the donated amount differs when considering one category compared to the other. Non-profit’s donors donated in 2019, on average, more than twice the amount donated by informal donors (non-profit donors: 66 euros; informal donors: 29 euros, both annually). In addition, informal donors show a more pronounced decrease: from 35 to 29 euros in one year compared to the one euro decrease of non-profit donors (67 to 66 euros).

THE MOST HEART-FELT CAUSES AMONG ITALIAN INFORMAL DONORS – Despite in the study Italiani Solidali a general decrease in the propensity to donate for most of the solidarity’s causes emerged, in 2019 Italian informal donors seem more likely to donate to the following causes: medical-scientific research (46% vs 54% of 2018), the fight against poverty both in Italy (21%) and in the world (15%) and support for children in Italy (15%) and in the world (19%).

A NEW SCENARIO: THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC’S IMPACT – During the first week of the BVA Doxa tracking on the impact of Coronavirus (20-24 March), one Italian out of four declared that they had already made a donation due to the difficulties generated by the pandemic, and a similar percentage (26%) replied they were planning to do so in the future.

During the sixth week of the survey (1-4 May), which referred to donations made in April, the share of Italians who declared that they had already made a donation following the health emergency rose to 35%, with a corresponding decrease in those who intended to do so in the future (18%).

When considering the answers collected by the first and sixth waves as a whole, it emerges that 30% of Italians (about 13/15 million individuals) made at least one donation in March and April as a response to the new needs brought by the pandemic. Only 8% of these donations went through a non-profit organization, while all the others were donations not intermediated by any organization. These donations addressed directly the beneficiaries, thanks to all those actors – such as the Civil Protection and hospitals, up to the individual doctors and nurses – who emerged as real alternative fundraisers during the health emergency.

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