/ Money

How do you like to give to charity?

Charity worker on high street

Brits are a generous bunch – according to the Charities Aid Foundation UK adults donated £9.3bn to charity between 2011 and 2012. And over half of us donate to charity in a typical month. But what’s the best way to give?

There are a wide range of ways people can donate. And if you’re anything like me you’ll often drop a £1 in a bucket with little thought. But what about if you really want to make a difference for your chosen cause?

Of course, charities most value people who donate regularly over the years. Yet, the methods charities use to sign-up donors can sometimes raise heckles.

High street and door-to-door fundraisers are certainly a controversial topic. Our posts on chuggers often gain a mixed response, but this comment from Erin sums up typical feelings:

‘If I want to give to a charity, I will give to them of my own accord. Any charity that harasses me simply ensures I will never give to them again.’

Giving through your payroll

There’s lots of research that suggests the majority or people only donate to charity after being asked, whether in an advert or by someone in the street. But if you know you want to give, why not cut out the middleman and set-up a direct debit directly with the charity?

Or if you’re in work, ‘payroll giving’ is a good way to give to charity on a regular basis. The money comes out of your pre-tax salary and can go to any charity at all. Your employer will need to have an arrangement with a payroll-giving agency – the biggest of which is Give As You Earn.

Regular giving with charity credit cards

You could also get yourself a charity credit card. These are less common than they used to be, with Lloyds notably pulling its charity credit card last year. But Co-op and MBNA both still offer charity credit cards that support a number of well-known charities, such as the RSPCA, British Heart Foundation and Save the Children.

These cards will donate 25p per £100 spent to your chosen charity, which isn’t exactly an earth-shattering sum. In fact,  you could donate far more by getting a cashback credit card that pays back 1% on your spending and then give that cashback to charity. Still, every penny counts, so charity credit cards can still be a valid way to donate.

So I want to know – do you regularly donate to charity? How do you prefer to give?


Unless it is for a local charity I would never part with money at the door or in the street. I hand a fair amount of unwanted but useable stuff over to charity shops in the course of a year and, because I have signed Gift Aid undertakings enabling the charities to reclaim tax on the value of my contributions, I get statements from these charities on the amounts I have donated to enable me to declare it on my tax returns [I presume some sort of reconcilaition is done]. This shows a surprising amount – far more than I think I would have promised under a direct debit agreement or in response to a mailshot. My only gripe is that the shops sell the goods at ludicrously low prices thus making it difficult for other shops [with high rents, rates and wage bills] to compete.

The begging behaviour of some charities and their collectors certainly raises my heckles as well as my hackles. We do not seem to suffer so much from the door-to-door variety these days but as we approach Christmas-time the great wadge of bumf that cascades out of every magazine [bar Which? of course!] that comes into the house really gets my goat. I suppose presenting us with images of emaciated donkeys in far-away lands – there are at least two charities specialising in this particular plight – evokes a sufficiently sympathetic response to justify the printing and distribution costs but I seriously wonder whether everything is as above board as it should be. For these reasons I prefer to stick to the mainstream charities with a physical presence in my town.

When giving to charity, one should take into account the overheads that the charity will incur through the collection method. Chuggers are the worst way, because they take a cut for themselves; they are not working “for charity” but for a living. Even making a donation by credit card isn’t optimal; the charity will have to pay a deduction to fund your points, airmiles, cashback or other incentive that your card issuer gives you. The best way is a simple bank transfer that costs the charity nothing to receive and is almost anonymous so you won’t be contacted for further donations. You can then include it on your tax return so you receive tax relief on the donation. If you would prefer the charity to receive the amount of the tax relief instead of you, then simply increase your donation by 20%, and you will still get the tax relief.

As far as I am aware, in the UK, the only way that you can get tax relief for gifts to charity is
1 By making donations of land, buildings or shares
2 If you make a Gift Aided donation and you are a higher rate taxpayer your basic rate tax band is extended by the amount of your Gift Aided donation so you effectively get relief for the difference between the basic rate and higher rate tax.

Neither of these ways are by a simple bank transfer and for a Gift Aided transaction you would have to provide the charity with your surname/initial and post code as well as a declaration that you are a UK taxpayer.

However, if I have missed some legislation, please point me in the right direction.

Most of my support for charities is by working for them. I focus on charities that give enjoyment to many people – including children and the elderly – rather than charities doing vital work.

I am happy to support friends, and friends of friends, who are raising money for charities, but I am more likely to support them if they are doing something that is actually useful rather than a sponsored marathon, etc. I attend some fundraising events run by charities.

I am very reluctant to support large charities that spend a lot on marketing, use chuggers, doorstep collectors and collectors that harass you at tills and shop entrances.

I regularly (monthly) support a few charities whose beliefs and mission aims are consistent with mine, and I also support my Church. I will also contribute to these charities in response to special disaster related appeals.

I ignore all unsolicited requests, no matter how many free pens or stickers I’m given, but I will support charity events when people I know participate. I once worked for a housing charity but never gave money to that charity. I don’t really know why; maybe felt it was good to give time to one and money to others.

Having confidence in my chosen charity is important to me. One of my regular charities phoned once using technics I did not appreciate to persuade me to increase my giving. They were told in no uncertain terms not to do so again.

I enjoy contributing and it helps me feel involved, even if only in a small way, in helping others in need.

I get particularly annoyed by the latest trend of people coming round pubs collecting for charity and disturbing me and my friends while we drink. I doubt that some of them are legitimate. It’s the British equivalent of the practice elsewhere in Europe of the man (or woman in Eastern Europe) coming round bars and restaurants selling flowers. There is no opportunity to claim tax relief, either for oneself or the charity, or to verify the authenticity of the charity collector’s identification badge.

peter macculloch says:
18 October 2013

I never respond to phone ,door callers or street collections but do subscribe via standing orders and gift aid . I particularly dislike any hint of emotional blackmail given in any charitable request

jojo says:
18 October 2013

Well I don’t know about you lot but I’m selfish and greedy and I don’t want to part with my hard earned cash to strangers who likely live a long way and whose value system I don’t share; and I can’t see how my minuscule contribution will have any effect in stopping the tsunami of human misery.
So I resolved many years ago to be rational. At the beginning of every year I choose three (because it’s a magic number) charities. I choose both direct care givers and campaigners (including Amnesty which the Charity Commissioners regard as too political to qualify because they support human rights). 10% of my wage is split three ways on a standing order. The loss is less noticeable because it barely touches the sides of my account; and because it’s regular. I don’t part with a penny otherwise as a sop to my misanthropy – and it’s the best I can do.

I am lucky enough to be a Freemason. All of my donations to charity are done through Freemasonry, which takes NOTHING from the amount donated, but sends every penny to the cause for which it was donated

The Charity Commission is rightly proud of the ease with which you can see how a charity spends your donations on its website.

In discussion with some of its managers after this year’s AGM, I found out that they are thinking of promoting a “check-out-the-collector” smartphone app. This could involve a requirement that collectors and adverts for charities registered with a scheme carry scannable bar codes giving immediate access to information.

Hope Which? will support this.

Susan says:
18 October 2013

The way Jonas, above, supports his charities is similar to my own, and like him, it’s essential for me to feel confident in an organisation to which I give money: that it will not spend too much on admin, and get as much as possible to the people who need it. I do understand that charities working overseas in war zones will inevitably lose some donations to local ‘protection rackets’, as if they don’t make this accommodation the needy people will get nothing at all. There are people in my church who have worked, or do work now, for some of the well-known charities, which helps me to set this in perspective. One charity is named in my will.

I also collect door to door for Christian Aid each year. I understand people’s distaste for ‘beggars’ knocking on the door usually in the middle of supper. So I only collect in a couple of roads near me, and deliver the material with a personal letter, showing my name and address, just before I make the actual collection. By now, even those people who did not know me before, do so now, and most of them are extremely generous, with their donation envelope already filled. I also tell them, by letter, how much we collected when I have the result.

mike - the rules are very clear says:
18 October 2013

How to make money by magic.

most people know that a £100 donation from a uk taxpayer can be converted into £125 by the charity. However, if the taxpayer is paying a higher rate he/she can claim ANOTHER £25 through his/her tax return. Conscience would probably urge him/her to pass that on to the charity who therebey get another £25 and, with gift aid, another £6.25

So, in summary – a higher rate taxpayer donating £100 can, by magic, turn it into £156.25

A 40% taxpayer has to earn £166.67 to have £100.00 net to give to charity. So what happened to the remaining £10.42? Well, you have to donate the £6.25, claim the higher rate and pass on £1.56, then £0.39 … . So it’s not a very effective way for higher rate taxpayers to give unless you like writing to HMRC.

A 40-45% taxpayer should simply use payroll giving to turn a net donation of £100 into £166.67 or £181.82. No magic required.

Mike Drew says:
18 October 2013

As well as reviewing how we give to charities (above) I think that Which? should carry out a thorough examination of all those charities out there trying to attract our cash. I’d like to know which ones are the most efficient, pay the least to their administrators, waste the least on “free” gifts to me etc., etc.. In a couple of months we will all be exhorted to give to this, that and the other charity in time for Christmas — but where does the money go? What proportion of my donations actually go to the people for whom it is intended. This is important in view of the recent revelations that some of the cash sent to appeal for Syrian reugees finished up in the wrong hands. Come on Which? – this sort of investigation and analysis should be right up your street.

Michael Pattison says:
18 October 2013

I use a Charities Aid Foundation, which I aim to top up once a year. CAF charge a very small amount for each payment in, but then claim all tax relief due. So the payments made from the account to charities do not involve the charity in Gift Aid paperwork. I gave CAF the names of charities I want to support with monthly or annual payments; call in or go on line for one-off requests; and use CAF “cheques” in preference to cash for any contributions I want to make to local collections or collectors I wish to support.

Try it – it works

Mike, the rules are very clear says:
18 October 2013

Is 4% a “very small amount”?

They are a charity so I assume it is what it costs them and, to be fair, it would seem to take away a lot of hassle.

Nice idea and sounds very simple.

David L says:
22 November 2013

I too use Charities Aid Foundation and think they provide an excellent service!

I’m at that age where I’m going to more funerals nowadays. Often there is some kind of collection bowl to put in your donation to a nominated charity. I will ignore it. As a taxpayer I will go on-line so that the charity can also benefit from the Gift Aid, as there is not usually forms readily available to fill in – and time might not allow. I agree with almost all the comments made by others. My wife is a Type 1 diabetic, so our emphasis is to donate to Diabetes UK. I would imagine others have similar thinking if they have, or know of, people who have to live with something that affects their daily lives. Do you buy a poppy from the front door? I could still find last year’s but I expect I’ll buy another later this month. We live quite away from the sea but we’ll give something to the RNLI when they come round and be pleased to put a sticker in the window. There’s not much logic to our thinking – either to whom and how much – it’s just how the conscience pricks at the time.

Diana says:
18 October 2013

I give regularly by direct debit/standing order to quite a large list of random charities that has grown like topsy, and I keep on meaning to rationalise so that I give more to fewer charities that I really care about, but never get round to it. I have also given one off amounts for disaster relief, trying to focus on natural, rather than man-made disasters (though sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two). I only occasionally give at the front door. I don’t like chuggers, because they are usually fairly ignorant about the charity. I have heard that JustGiving takes a larger proportion of the donation than Virgin Money Giving. Perhaps Which could compare CAF with Just Giving and Virgin Money Giving, and any other agents like this.

Martin says:
18 October 2013

We donate a regular amount each month but we select a different charity each time. This allows us to support appeals in particular need and also gives us the good feeling of consciously making a donation each month. It also gives us a ready answer for any approach at the door or on the phone when we can say, yes we will put your charity on our list and consider it.

garibaldi says:
18 October 2013

What about on line web sites such as “Just Giving”.
Do they make a percentage charge?

Sophie Gilbert says:
18 October 2013

I know for a fact that not all charities allow their own employees to give through payroll giving. How’s that for irony?

Also, beware of not ring-fencing donations. Unrestricted funds can end up in places you don’t want to know about.

John Brookes says:
18 October 2013

As a practicing Christian I believe in the principle of tithing and I set aside 10% of my income for charitable purposes with the biggest proportion supporting my local church. This leaves enough for supporting other charities that I am interested in an other emergency appeals.

Graeme says:
18 October 2013

I find the above comments very interesting.
As a (non-paid) Board member of a Charity that relies solely on legacies, donations and funding from trusts to provide essential items to the most vulnerable, we have had to look recently at increasing funds as we have relied in the past on interest from investments which have recently plunged at a time of increasing need. We have made efficiencies in our processes and have very low admin costs but still need to raise funds and awareness of what we do. However, we are vigorously against using professional fundraisers, chuggers or door to door fundraising for the very reasons above. The problem is we are a relatively small charity with a geographical focus and have found that methods such as ‘just giving’ whilst simple and easy to use would be too expensive. So I guess my point is that if you are a small charity it is increasingly difficult to raise funds in the current climate when there isn’t the same awareness or fund raising mechanisms that are available to the larger /well known charities.
It isn’t a level playing field by any means.
Not sure what the answer is but maybe an accredited online clearing house for charities where they require to publish admin costs, income/expenditure, provision and how they raise funds etc might help to prospective donors make a more informed choice.

I think many small or single-purpose charities are really struggling these days. This is partly due to a lack of donors or shrivelling investment returns, partly because newer good causes appeal more to people’s feelings, and partly because they focus on things that in our selective vision we find uncomfortable or not sentimental enough, but largely, in my view, because the major charities have scooped the pool through their corporate/organisational appeal and high-profile and celeb supporters. There also seems to be a lot of duplication that causes confusion among potential donors [how many more charities do we need to help our soldiers? – perhaps the well-known one’s don’t do the job well or are too big or unresponsive, but how can we tell?].

Many small charities possibly do not deserve to survive and are scratching around for funds, or for things to spend their money on, or for both in some cases. But many such organisations meet genuine hardships and medical needs and deserve more support. With TV adverts pleading with us to text a fiver to a tiger it’s hard for the good old Food & Fuel charities that still exist in many towns and villages to raise the funds to give immediate and relevant relief to those who have suffered through a tragic turn of the wheel of life. If every penny that is spent on a meaningless teddy bear at a makeshift roadside shrine were given to a worthy cause it would do more good – as well as saying more about the donor!