80 percent of Swiss households donate at least once a year, the average donation is 360 francs.
Jean Claude RaemyEditor Economics
A massive increase in prices by Swiss standards followed two difficult years of the pandemic. Many Swiss think about where they can save. In such situations, many are closest to themselves.
But lo and behold: the Swiss donated more than ever in 2022. “The Swiss Red Cross received more donations in 2022 than ever before,” says spokeswoman Katharina Schindler. The volume of donations totaled around 77 million Swiss francs, of which 41 million were donated by private individuals.
It sounds similar at Caritas Switzerland. Spokeswoman Livia Leykauf says that the organization had never received so much support in any previous year: over 44 million francs came in. “The solidarity of the Swiss with people in need was overwhelming,” said Leykauf – especially knowing that it was a year of uncertainty and concern, worldwide and in Switzerland.
Much solidarity with Ukraine
The most donations went to Ukraine. According to the 2022 donation statistics from the Zewo Foundation, 285 million francs were collected in the first few months after the outbreak of the war alone. Almost as much as in the 2005 tsunami catastrophe in Asia.
The willingness to donate is usually close to the event. However, the Swiss Red Cross (SRK) is still registering many donations for Ukraine in the winter. “The extraordinarily positive annual result is clearly due to the Ukraine crisis,” says SRK-Schindler. Towards the end of the year, however, the income from donations for other topics was slightly lower than in the previous year. “In previous years, we’ve had the experience that after a major catastrophe event where a lot of donations were made, a certain donation fatigue can be observed for a short time,” concludes Schindler.
Meanwhile, Caritas notes that donations continued uninterrupted for projects that received less media attention: the fight against famine in Africa, projects for climate justice, help for Syria and also poverty reduction in Switzerland. With regard to the latter, Daniel Römer (60) from Winterhilfe Zurich explains that the campaign launched in autumn has so far brought in the same amount of donations as in previous years. There is still no sign of an economically induced “donation fatigue”.
More major donors than before
The organizations want to keep a close eye on whether the currently more difficult economic situation is putting pressure on donations over the next few months.
Georg von Schnurbein (45), head of the Center for Philanthropy Studies (CEPS) at the University of Basel, would not have been surprised by the persistently high level of donations. “Private donations are largely independent of the economy,” he notes. From studies after the subprime crisis in the USA, we know that the willingness to donate even increases in times of crisis. Therefore, the general uncertainty will have little impact on the willingness to donate. However, he assumes that there will be a shift in the purpose of the donation away from Ukraine to “normal” topics such as children, disabilities or climate protection.
That doesn’t mean that everything is pink: According to von Schnurbein, the proportion of donors in society is decreasing. In return, the remaining donors give more, which is why the total amount remains constant. “In recent years, due to the declining number of donors, the aid organizations have invested in large donors and foundation fundraising, which is why larger contributions are now coming from these sources.” Despite the larger average amounts, one should not be fooled here: “More than 80 percent of the foundations have capital of less than 5 million francs, which is why the annual distributions are in the low five-digit range.”
In the case of private donations, the majority continues to come from Mr. and Mrs. Schweizer. And they show solidarity: According to Zewo, 80 percent of Swiss households recently donated money; every second household donated more than 360 francs per year.