Germans like to donate a lot, but according to current figures, the number of people willing to help is declining. Nevertheless, the second-best result ever measured is achieved, despite the pandemic and inflation. It is striking that people over 70 in particular help.

It sounds questionable at first: According to a study, fewer and fewer private individuals in Germany are donating money to charitable organizations and churches in a long-term comparison. The number of donors was 18.7 million, the lowest it has ever been since the survey began in 2005, according to the “Balance sheet of helping” for 2022. This has now been presented by the German Donors’ Council and market researchers from GfK.

In the exceptional donation year 2021 with the flood in the Ahr valley, there were 20 million donors, in the early years of the survey there were still well over 25 million. But first some good news: the remaining donors are still raising a considerable sum. In the evaluation, the umbrella organization of 70 non-profit organizations collecting donations recorded 5.67 billion euros for 2022. That is only slightly less than 2021 (5.76 billion) and the second-best result.

The donation council announced that the solidarity of the donors was unbroken despite high inflation and rising energy prices. The people had provided help in particular for the people who had fled from Ukraine, said Donation Council Managing Director Martin Wulff according to the announcement. The result can also be explained by the fact that donors give money several times a year – around seven times on average. And the amount per donation is also increasing, now to 43 euros. It was said that the largest share of donations came from people over 70.

So how do you explain the decline in the number of donors? One assumption that experts have been expressing for a long time is that future generations will not have their own experience of suffering in war, for example. Priorities may have shifted. However, not all ways of doing good fall under the criteria of the “balance sheet of helping”. Inheritances, large donations, voluntary work and donations in kind, among other things, are not included. There is “great growth” in the area of ​​inheritance, for example, said Larissa Probst, Managing Director of the German Fundraising Association. “Resources from the economic miracle are now being passed on. But also with donations above the 2,500 euro limit drawn by the donation council.” Different definitions lead to different results: According to the latest figures for 2021, the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) states around 12.9 billion euros in donations in Germany. Donations of up to 30,000 euros are recorded there and also from people who are not German.

The methodology also has an influence: The extrapolations of the “balance of helping” are based on monthly diaries of 10,000 participants aged 10 and over, some of which are still kept on paper. If you only ask Internet users up to the age of 70 – like Probst’s association in the “German donation monitor” – around 53 percent of those questioned turn out to be donors. In the “balance sheet of helping” it is only 28 percent. The current figures do not cause Probst any major concerns. “The classic monetary donation will continue to be one of the most important areas.” Unearmarked monetary donations are particularly important for organizations because they can also use them to cover running costs and plan for the longer term.

New, more diverse forms of giving have often not been taken into account in previous surveys, as Probst explains: for example, when a part of the price of a muesli bar is donated. She sees a strong “purpose debate” in the country, sustainability and meaning are important. “You can’t put the younger generation under general suspicion.” Not even the 40- to 49-year-olds who, according to the “balance sheet of helping”, are increasingly becoming the “problem child of all age groups”. Probst says this group was under particular pressure during the pandemic and often had no head for donations.

According to the experts, it is important for organizations to use modern formats of address in order to attract younger donors, for example. According to GfK expert Bianca Corcoran-Schliemann, there is also potential for people who have so far only donated larger amounts on a selective basis after a disaster. However, it is very difficult to win them over as regular donors.