Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Challenging CAF on their statistics

BFTF noticed a link to an interesting press release from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) that suggested that people of faith give more to charities than people of no faith. Now, just to be clear, BFTF is perfectly cool with that, and indeed it would fit with BFTF's own experience. But, fortunately, anecdotes and personal preference aren't evidence!

The key parts of the press release (which is shown in its entirety at the foot of this post) seemed to be the following :
The average amount given to charity by those who are religious was £576 over the previous twelve months, compared to the £235 contributed by those of no faith.. . However, only 31% of religious donors had given money to a religious activity. . . The split across the other causes tended to be more in line with the rest of the population, 68% donating to medical charities and 48% to overseas aid, which were also the two most popular choices for those of no faith . . .The figures come from CAF's 2011 Market Tracker Report, which asked 507 donors giving at least £50 to charity a year a variety of questions about their charitable habits.

BFTF felt a little uneasy with this, as it seemed to leave a lot of questions unanswered. So BFTF sent the email below to CAF to see if they could provide a little meat to the bones of the press release:

"I've seen a couple of references to the CAF press release entitled "Religious donors give more than double those of no faith" recently and was hoping you could provide a little more information on the data behind it.Specifically, I am wondering about the following :
i) Why 507 donors?How did you select them?
ii) Were the results distorted by a small number of donors who gave very high or low amounts?
iii)How much (in £) did the religious donors give, on average, to non-religious charities?
iv) How much (in £) did the religious donors give, on average, to religious charities?"


Update 17th March
Having had no response, sent another email to CAF

Update 26th March
CAF responded that the donors were selected randomly, that there were no outliers in the data and that they had not asked for the total amounts, not the amounts given to specific causes. This last point doesn't quite answer BFTF's questions in (iii) and (iv), but that is probably because BFTF's email was ambiguous.



The CAF press release
People who are religious donate over twice as much money to charity as those without a faith, according to figures from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).
The average amount given to charity by those who are religious was £576 over the previous twelve months, compared to the £235 contributed by those of no faith.
However, only 31% of religious donors had given money to a religious activity.
The split across the other causes tended to be more in line with the rest of the population, 68% donating to medical charities and 48% to overseas aid, which were also the two most popular choices for those of no faith.
The figures come from CAF's 2011 Market Tracker Report, which asked 507 donors giving at least £50 to charity a year a variety of questions about their charitable habits.
CAF Director of Research Richard Harrison commented: "These results not only show that those of faith are more generous to charity in general, but that their giving is not uniquely focused on their own religious activities.
"If anything, people of faith broadly give in line with the rest of the general public - to a variety of different appeals.
‘The culture of giving within religious circles that is demonstrated by our survey is an admirable one, and a phenomenon that clearly enriches our society."
The results of the CAF study are published just days after the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF)’s report, which shows those who claim to be Christian do not necessarily follow the faith.
Even within the research from CAF, only 51% of those claiming to be a certain faith agreed that they ‘had strong religious beliefs’.
The remaining participants either disagreed (6%) or didn’t specify, supporting the RDF’s findings that there is a certain disparity between identifying yourself as a part of a faith and having strong beliefs.
However, although Richard Dawkins took this news as proof of Christianity being redundant in Britain today, the CAF data could be seen to tell a different story.
‘The survey shows that there is a link between associating with a religion and charitable behaviour, even when people aren’t actively practising their faith,’ Richard Harrison added.
‘The survey shows that there is a link between associating with a religion and charitable behaviour, even when people aren’t actively practising their faith,’ Richard Harrison added.





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