18/09/2011 19:54 BST | Updated 18/11/2011 05:12 GMT

The Average UK Household Spends as Much a Week on Charity as They do on Cheese

There are few statistics about the charitable sector that surprise us in the CAF office. This one did though. The average UK household spends as much as week on charity as they do on cheese.

This figure is just 0.4% of household expenditure and this hasn't moved in several decades - despite all the work that has been done by politicians to get us giving.

We know that the UK population value charity. Three-quarters of us have used a charitable service in the past year and two-thirds believe that the work charities do is vital to creating a good and fair society.

This Government has been relatively vocal about the role of charities because of their importance to David Cameron's Big Society project. The Giving White Paper and the changes introduced in the Budget this year were welcome steps forward but more could and should be done to make giving easier and more appealing.

CAF believe that that the levels are so low that ministers need to kick start a new drive on giving by pledging to donate a percentage of their income to charitable causes.

The Giving Pledge in the US has done much to highlight the positive effects of talking about giving and has provided a focal point for a discussion and debate on what people think appropriate levels of charitable giving look like. It is important to retain the element of choice, which is why we have not been prescriptive about the exact percentage of spending that should be given.

As well as leading from the front with their own giving, there are other steps the Government should take to encourage generosity. Much has been made of exciting and innovative ways of giving using new technologies, but we also need to ensure that existing schemes which allow people to give more for less - like Payroll Giving and Gift Aid don't get left behind. Both need to be transformed and modernised so they can reach their full potential in our increasingly digital world.

Businesses too need to play their part. More business leaders should actively support effective partnerships with charities and foster a charitable culture within their own business and workforce. Research shows that schemes which encourage employee volunteering improve staff retention and employee satisfaction with their workplace. Better and more transparent standards of reporting on corporate responsibility programmes will allow consumers to judge a company's activities and enable competitor benchmarking, which should in turn drive up standards.

Finally, the Government should explore ways to encourage individuals and companies to use their assets for social impact - not just through giving but investment too. The financial needs of charities and social enterprises are often as complex as those of businesses, and the range of funding options should reflect this. New forms of social investment that can offer access to growth or working capital will offer charities opportunities to scale up their activities far more easily than they have been able to in the past.

We know that people don't tend to respond well to being told that they should be giving more, especially in the difficult economic climate, so we need to look for more positive ways to encourage generosity. We are taking our campaign to the political party conferences to get people talking about giving, and to encourage them to work with us to really drive things forward.

More details of CAF's Charity or Cheese campaign can be found at