Donations in Russia: who, how, to whom, how much

The “Blagosphere” Centre reveals how much Russians donate and to whom




Irina Mersiyanova, Director of the Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector at the National Research University’s Higher School of Economics, presented the results of an All-Russian study on “Ways in which Russians donate money” at the “Blagosphere” Centre”. Russians over the age of 18 from 43 regions took part in the research.


In her presentation, Irina explained how many Russians make donations, what causes they donate to most often, and their views on the easiest way of attracting donations. The study is part of a large-scale monitoring of the state of Russian society which Irina’s Centre and the Higher School of Economics have been conducting over the past 14 years.


The number of Russians making donations


There has been a steady growth in the number of Russians who say they donate money to the needy. In 2007, the figure was 44%, increasing to 63% in 2019. “We are talking about donations in their broadest sense: from giving to those in need to all enlightened forms of charity that exist abroad and in our own country”, said Mersiyanova. “The numbers of people making donations has changed little over the past five years, while ways in which money can be donated in Russia are being developed all the time”, she added.


Despite the ever increasing convenience of the charity infrastructure, the number of Russians who use it hasn’t changed all that much. For the past 10 years, the figure has stayed at around 14-15%. A lot of Russians said they make donations “very often”. Mersiyanova believes that this highlights a lack of other incentives for people to make donations and that “people who have helped before are using different ways of donating money”. In other words, those who give to the needy are starting to make money transfers into the accounts of charities who continue to have a presence on the street.


At the same time, the number of Russians who say “they never make donations” has gone down, from 46% in 2009 to 36% this year. This is in contrast to figures from 2011 when more than half of Russians (51%) admitted to never having helped strangers.


The people making donations


According to Irina, socio-demographic factors don’t significantly affect the willingness of people to donate money. However, in Russia and elsewhere in the world it is women who donate more often (on average 3,700 roubles). Men donate less often, with their average donation being 7,300 roubles.


The study also showed that more educated people living in cities donate more often.


According to Alexandra Babkina, head of the project, the level of involvement in charitable causes is not dependent on a person’s income. “We have lots of pensioners who provide help and those who donate one rouble per day”, she said.


Giving to charity and SMS messaging


The top three ways to make financial donations are to charity (36%), by SMS message (13%) and money transfers to those who need money directly rather than through a charity (21%). The latter category includes financial help to victims of natural disasters.


The biggest increase has been making money transfers using a mobile phone. In 2010, only 1% used this method, in 2019, the figure had gone up to 13%. Eleven percent donate via the Internet, i.e. one in every nine Russians, according to Irina.


The least popular method was money transfer via community action groups, Government agencies and automatic deductions from monthly salaries. Only 1% of respondents favoured any of these options.


Overall, said Irina, ways of donating money has changed little during 10 years of research.


Groups that Russians help


According to respondents, those deserving of support were charities (27%), campaigns (17%) and disability groups (20%). At the same time, 19% said they wouldn’t support “any organisation”, a category that includes political parties, ethnic communities and housing cooperatives. These groups were supported by around 1% of respondents.


According to those who took part in the research, the “easiest” groups for attracting donations were very sick children (75%), orphans (36%) and animals (22%). A relatively high percentage (10%) chose to help homeless people despite there being some public stigma attached to this group.


The groups identified by respondents as being the most “difficult” in terms of attracting donations were human rights activists, prisoners and those dependent on drugs. Helping HIV victims, as well as promoting education and arts causes, had the support of 3% of respondents.


When answering the question: which groups do you donate to personally, the response was: helping very sick children (35%), the elderly (17%), the homeless (11%) and animals (11%). Only 1% provided help to human rights activists, prisoners and those dependent on drugs.



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