Trends in Charitable Giving During the COVID-19 Pandemic in South Korea 

(For the peak period of February~May 2020)


(Units: Hor. – date | Ver. – no. of people) 

Figure 1. Daily number of new COVID-19 cases (blue) vs. Out of quarantine cases (grey) (KCDC, June 22, 2020)

COVID-19 has driven the whole world into panic. Until a vaccine is developed, no one is safe from the global pandemic, and efforts to overcome the hardships are ongoing across sectors.

The Center on Philanthropy at The Beautiful Foundation has been studying the trends in philanthropy in Korea for the past 19 years, sharing the outcomes as Giving Korea reports. This year, along with Dr. Roh Yeon-Hee, professor of Social Welfare at The Catholic University of Korea, and Dr. Chung Ik-Joong, professor of Social Welfare at Ewha Womans University, we are studying the impact of COVID-19 on charitable giving and volunteering in the country. Our first survey was conducted in May for a focused look at the peak season from February to May.

  • Survey Period: 11-14 May 2020 (4 days)
  • Participants: 1,000 adults aged 19 and over throughout the country
  • Survey Method: Online survey via the web and mobile

The survey questions covered such topics as giving and level of trust in the actions of various sectors for the period of February, when the pandemic first began, to mid-May, when the number of new cases started to subside.

How much did people donate during the peak period of the pandemic?

Approximately 167 out of 1,000 donated for COVID-19 relief

Around 16.7% of the respondents answered that they had donated to charity during February~May. This is a much lower rate than the donation rates of Giving Korea 2018 and Social Survey 2019 (by Statistics Korea), which were 53.3% and 25.6%, respectively.

Most donations made in March

As expected, the most donations were made in March, following the largest increase in number of daily new COVID-19 cases.

Figure 2. Number of new cases vs. Rate of participation in giving (New cases: KCDC)

More donations made online than offline & for causes in Korea than abroad

Rather than through in-person visits to organizations, donations were actively made online. Moreover, an overwhelming number of contributions were made for COVID-19 relief in Korea than for relief efforts abroad.

Method of Giving %
Off-line (in-person donation by visiting the public institution, nonprofit organization, fundraising organization, bank, etc.) 31.1
Online (online donation via the internet) 65.9
Both 3.0


Region of Donation %
Contributions for COVID-19 response in Korea 95.8
Contributions for COVID-19 response abroad 2.4
Both 1.8




Average amount of giving USD 58 (KRW 70,000)

The average amount of charitable giving for COVID-19 relief was approximately USD 58 (KRW 70,000), and the estimated amount for in-kind contributions showed to be similar at USD 52 (KRW 63,000). The amount of cash donations is relatively high, considering the average of annual contributions was USD 31 (KRW 37,000) in Giving Korea 2017 and USD 19 (KRW 23,000) in Social Survey 2017.

Did COVID-19 affect the act of giving?

Donors to COVID-19 response were mostly people who have participated in charitable giving before.

  I have donated for COVID-19 response I have not donated for COVID-19 response
I have donated prior to 2020 76.0 % 67.2 %
I have never donated prior to 2020 24.0 % 32.8 %
Total 100 % 100 %





However, for the donation amount, it was found that rather than increasing or reducing the amount, adjustments were made in terms of the recipient, with the overall amount of contribution remaining much the same.

Donation increased because of COVID-19 9.2 %
Donation did not change regardless of COVID-19 45.2 %
Donation decreased because of COVID-19 17.0 %
Never donated before or during COVID-19 28.6 %




The government is doing the best at combating COVID-19

When asked about the respondents’ perception of each sector’s response to COVID-19, 86.8% answered that the government was doing well and 70.9% replied the same for nonprofit organizations. These results reflect the people’s generally positive view of the public and private sectors’ response to the pandemic.

How much trust do people have for each sector?

The efforts of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) have been widely recognized around the world, and the survey also revealed an overwhelming support for the KCDC in Korea. When asked about the level of trust in the sources of information related to COVID-19, the order of most trusted source was the KCDC, central government, and local governments.

Rank Source of Information
1 Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC)
2 Central government
3 Local governments 
4 Korean news media
5 Foreign news media
6 Nonprofit organizations
7 Social media (SNS/YouTube, etc.)

On the level of trust in various organizations, confidence in the central and local governments were also higher than other sectors.

Rank Organizations
1 Central government
2 Local governments
3 Legal institutions
4 Nonprofit organizations
5 Corporations
6 Press
7 Religious institutions

The survey shows a relatively high level of confidence in the public sector at this time. It can be inferred that the people have a high level of trust in the public sector’s response to the pandemic.

The findings from this survey can also be seen as an internationally common phenomenon. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, the annual survey conducted by global communications company Edelman, people’s trust in the public sector of their respective countries has increased across borders since the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is necessary to further interpret what this trust means. Nevertheless, our survey confirms the level of giving by donors in Korea to be high during this pandemic, especially for the peak period, and the Korean government’s efforts, which has been globally recognized, to be highly appreciated and trusted by the Korean people.

Our research team and The Center on Philanthropy at The Beautiful Foundation will conduct a second survey at the end of July, and compare the trends of giving over time during the COVID-19 pandemic.



  1. Figure 2: No. of new cases (KCDC)
  2. Edeman Trust Barometer 2020