/ 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?


I think many of the answers to people’s questions about the proportion of donations spent on employees and on fund raising are on the Charity Commissioners website but whether it is easy to do a comparison, I am not sure. I did get told by one charity that although it might seem a waste of money sending out unsolicited requests for funds (like the Red Cross cards) they do in fact produce an excellent return. so the charities continue to do that. Chuggers really annoy me but I make a point of contributing to town centre/supermarket collections so long as the collection is for a known national charity or a local charity and the collectors are correctly badged.

Like the other Church goers here, I tithe and review on an annual basis and work for one charity that I don’t contribute to financially. I don’t like sites like JustGiving but when friends/relatives are seeking sponsorship they often use such sites. I always try to give direct to the charity so there is only one lot of administration costs involved.

I’m working up a solid resistance to charity fund-raising organisations which reach me on the ‘phone, usually at an altogether in convenient time, trying to talk me into increasing my DD giving! I’ve decided that they’re wasting their time & the charity’s resources!

Tabitha says:
18 October 2013

I agree that it would be a good idea for Which to investigate charities expenditures. I once gave a lump sum to a charity one Christmas and afterwards got letters for months afterwards asking for more monthly commitments with presents of pens etc. This so incensed me, because I felt that a lot of my money was being spent on all the advertising, that I both phoned and wrote to complain asking them to please stop, but it made no difference and the requests kept coming. I have never given to that charity again. I have supported people who do things in order to raise money for a charity through organisations such as Just Giving and would also like to know what percentage is taken away for their expenditures. So please get going Which.

Having just a tiny income to live on, I try to give small sums to medical research for life-threatening conditions that my family and I have been very fortunate in surviving, but for which others are still dying. I have frequently given my time to collect or work for various charities I support, and will usually sponsor friends and neighbours who run, walk etc for their chosen charities. Baking cakes for coffee mornings for local causes is an enjoyable contribution, but these are often priced too low to make a significant sum, but hopefully raise awareness of the charities concerned.

I recently discovered Care International’s ‘Lend with Care’ scheme which can use a relatively small sum lent to support small entrepreneurs in developing countries. As each loan is gradually repaid into my account, I choose another individual or group to take its place. I regard my original ‘loan’ as an ongoing donation, not intending to withdraw it as it is such an interesting and affordable way to help others in their far-away communities.

I do feel extremely frustrated that as my income is low, I am not now able to use ‘Gift Aid’ for any of my charity donations. I pay other forms of taxation, though not Income Tax now that I have retired. I feel that charities should be able to benefit from that additional percentage from the other taxes too. There must be many other pensioners who feel similarly frustrated!

I thought the ‘Lend with Care’ scheme that you mentioned was extremely interesting and sounds like the kind of thing I would like to support. I like schemes where someone is ‘lent’ a goat which they can milk and breed with and use the offspring to repay the loan and then use further offspring to sell or create a herd.

There is a new scheme called GASDS where charities can claim a payment (equivalent to Gift Aid) on cash donations (and I stress cash) from any individual donor of less than £20 with certain other limitations. As usual with HMRC there are all sorts of hoops to jump through and the basic scheme is limited to a maximum of£5000 of cash donations (where the amount of the claim would then be £1250). However. that £5000 can be related to one community building so they might find they qualify on more than one community building. I am sure that Treasurers of large charities will be thinking carefully about how they can use the scheme to the benefit of their charities.

Somebody has mentioned the collections of birthday & unbirthday cards, Christmas cards, calendars & the like which’re sent out unsolicited – I have a drawer-full of them, though since I live in ‘sheltered accommodation’ I can pass some of the items on to other people, but the point is that I can’t keep paying out for the all the unsolicited material! And yet I feel guilty if I can’t afford to pay for the stuff – is it a deliberate ploy on the part of the fund-raisers?

jane says:
19 October 2013

I work as volunteer in a charity shop and help to keep the money rolling in just by being “on duty”

for a few hours every week.

I support a selected group of charities by annual or monthly payments via Direct Debit and Gift Aid. I also, on occasion, take stuff into a charity shop with which I have a Gift Aid arrangement.

One particular annoyance is the number of charities, other than those I support, sending me unsolicited requests for contributions. The requests themselves are not too much of a problem, I can easily ignore them whilst deploring the waste of money, but what gets my back up is that they often include a ‘wonderful free gift’ which turns out to be a heap of self adhesive address labels. I have absolutely no need for these and, because I take the possibility of identity theft seriously, they are a confounded nuisance to dispose of safely.

Fran says:
19 October 2013

We have donated a monthly amount to charity for many years. We do not give on the street or at the front door. Certain collectors would have been advised or even prosecuted when we were, admittedly, a lot younger. Certain types of pictures on Tv also, as a public display were contrary to law. We, like many of our generation, have our own family problems that need more than just money. Until very recently we delivered meals on wheels twice a week – (most recipients did not need the food so much as a friendly chat).

Paul says:
20 October 2013

I”ve had a recent experience with being asked to contribute via Just Giving. I understand they take 5% of contributions including 5% of gift aid tax. Like Tabitha of 18/10, I believe Which could do a very useful report on the the various services which charities can use to collect monies, both from the perspective of how much money disappears but also as to which services are suitable for which scale of charity. I’ve heard the Vodafone “JustTextGiving” takes 0%. I see other services mentioned above including CAF & Virgin Money Giving.

As wel as taking varying amounts from our contributions, I believe at least one of them was not passing on the donations that they were due to pay to the charity leaving that particular charity in financial difficulties as well as not fulfilling their obligations to those who had donated through their particular scheme.

I can understand that for a small charity, paying for the administration costs of the Gift Aid Scheme (to employees not to the Government) can be more expensive than using a scheme like JustGiving to collect the contributions, but I would still like their to be real competition between these organisations so the charities can use the schemes cost effectively and donors can use them with confidence, knowing that by using them they are in fact a cheaper option for the charity.

I think we need to remember that there are costs in administration, that in order to get the best people running the charities, they have to pay out good salaries, pensions and benefits to those who work for them. that doing it on the cheap and relying on low paid employees or volunteers might simply mean that they are not getting the best fund raisers, the best administrators, the best people to oversee the projects. Being a volunteer does not necessarily make you the best person for the job.

I know that there are some very competent people working voluntarily for charities at all sorts of levels and they are to be treasured and applauded so I am not saying every volunteer should be replaced by a paid employee.

People are forgetting that all UK taxpayers are giving 10-25% of their income in support of others, through the welfare state, foreign aid, NHS and other sources that they may not benefit from themselves to any significant extent.

Even a basic rate tax payer is paying more than 20% income tax and 20% VAT, plus fuel tax, tax on air travel, etc. (The total tax tax is around 46% of GDP)

Donating 10% of your income to charity would mean you are left with less than 50% of your pretax earnings for most people.

You have ignored the effect of the income tax personal allowance. Although the basic rate of income tax is 20% it is not 20% on your total income but 20% on your income after the personal allowance. Moreover 20% VAT is not payable on everything, food for example is exempt and the VAT on electricity/gas is 5%.

Bookworm says:
20 October 2013

I donate to three charities each year – mostly local. However, a couple of years ago my daughter and I ran the Race for Life in aid of Cancer Research UK and raised £500 – which was a huge sum for us and we were very proud of ourselves. The following year I received a phone call from a PR firm who had been engaged at considerable cost by CRUK to raise a specific sum of money (the details I cannot remember). However, I was being asked quite determinedly to commit to £10+/month towards this but I felt totally let down as it felt like my £500 was being paid to a PR company rather than going to research as I had intended. I declined to donate and asked not to be contacted further.

I agree with many of the comments already made. I select the charities I believe are worth supporting and send money directly to them. I never give money to collectors in the street or to those who call at the house. If I’m hassled in the street by a ‘chugger’ and it happens to be a charity I support, then I would immediately stop my donation to that charity. I have received begging letters from charities I’ve supported in the past asking for more money. I wrote asking them to stop sending the letters as I already gave as much as I could and I objected to them wasting money on sending me begging letters. Sometimes they stopped, sometimes they didn’t. If they didn’t stop then I stopped sending money to that charity.

If I’m donating items to charity shops I always take them into the shop myself as I understand that the people who collect charity bags from houses charge the charities for this service.

One of my pet hates is receiving requests for further donations after having chosen to support a charity. I now send a covering letter with any donation I make explaining that I wish to Gift Aid my donation, I am UK taxpayer, and the only reason I am disclosing my address is so that they can reclaim the tax from HMRC. I also state in the letter that under no circumstances (in bold type and underlined) are they to put my name on a mailing list, or contact me in any way to solicit further donations. This usually works, but on the odd occasion when I have had a follow-up I’ve sent a strongly-worded reply (using the prepaid envelope they send with the mail-shot) to the effect that I donated to them through my choice, I sent them money to help with their charitable work and not to swell the profits of Royal Mail, and that if they did not remove my name from their mailing list and sent me further begging letters I would never, under any circumstances, donate to them again. So far I’ve had 100% success rate with this strategy!

Csreader says:
21 October 2013

Just Giving take 5% of the donation and the tax reclaimed; so if you give £10 through them, they take £0.625. In addition they take the 1.3% (of the original £10) that Barclaycard charges for handling a credit card donation – it would be less for a debit card. So, of the £2.50 tax reclaimed, the charity actually gets £1.74 (almost 70%).

Virgin Money Giving is slightly better, from the donor’s point of view. It takes 2% (of the £10) plus 1.45% for handling the credit card transaction; so the charity gets £12.15 in total.

I found it much more difficult to discover Vodafone JustTextGiving’s charges. But eventually I was taken to exactly the same page as JustGiving uses to explain their charges:
So it seems that the money Vodafone receives is processed by JustGiving and their charges are applied; £10 donated means the charity receives £11.74.

At least for regular donations to a charity, the best way is to give it direct to the charity – they usually prefer a direct debit – and let them reclaim the Gift Aid refund. So,for a £10 donation, they will see the full £12.50. However, they will still have administrative costs in managing direct debits and reclaiming Gift Aid which have to be set off against the £12.50. Let’s hope these are smaller than the £0.76 that JustGiving retains.

I give to 6 charities a month via Give As You Earn (payroll giving). this is managed by CAF who charge 4% admin fee. Following campaigning by our staff forum (of whom i am a member) we got our employer to pay the admin fee, so all my donations (& gift aid/tax relief) goes to the charities. the money comes out of my pay before tax so i don’t have to worry about tax forms etc. All employees should campaign for their employer to offer GAYE, even if they can’t manage to pay the admin fees, at least having the availability for payroll giving is a really positive thing that employers can do. You are still in complete control of how much and which charities you give to. The charities i donate too did start sending me requests for more money or newsletters etc but i told all of them to stop sending me mail as i didn’t want them wasting my money and they all did stop.

I absolutely refuse to have anything to chuggers and will only give to ad-hoc fundraisers if they are forces charities (you often get lovely veterans collecting for different forces charities at waterloo station) or cancer related and are not shouting out/shaking buckets (something that used to be illegal but doesn’t appear to be any more).

For the first time this year i actually did some fundraising by doing a 5k Race For Life as my friend was having treatment for breast cancer.

I absolutely support the suggestions for Which? to do an investigations into fundraising intermediaries.

Figgerty says:
22 October 2013

I have made regular donations for many years direct to MERLIN a medical emergency charity. They provide medical aid in many of the trouble spots around the world. They build clinics and arrange immunisation programmes and train up local people in immunisation and the best midwifery practice. This charity has an amazing record and has joined recently with Save the Children. I’m not sure how I feel about that but time will tell.

I also donate regularly to The Salvation Army and when working I encouraged all my colleagues to donate to them instead of passing around Christmas cards to each other.

I also donate direct to ad-hoc causes like the Syrian Refugees crisis and a couple of other charities. I recently signed up to paying UNICEF £5 per month from my phone credit. It seems I can stop it any time I like by texting STOP. I don’t normally respond to this type of phone appeal but this chap appealed to my better nature and I signed up. I hope I don’t regret it.

I have also donated to other peoples causes through Just Giving. A few times paying to sponsor someone and a couple of times donating to a deceased persons cause instead of buying flowers for their funeral. I think it is an acceptable way of donating in such circumstances.

It begins at home says:
29 October 2013

I do applaud people who raise money for causes dear to them, but to raise it for something you haven’t been affected by is truly charitable.

I’m happy to give stuff that I don’t want any more to some charities………..but for the majority I would suggest that they might ask for some of the overseas aid to be kept at home.
After all how bonkers is it that we give aid to a country where many of it’s citizens are in poverty but which at the same time is funding a space programme ?

Another charity ploy which ‘gets up my nose’ is the envelope with no return address! They usually contain unwanted ‘gifts’, which is once again, a waste of resources! Unless I open the envelope & they hope, feel deep guilt as I see the ‘gift’, I’m unable to return the envelope to the sender! Oh, & I’m truly tired of “I’m calling in behalf of…” which usually comes at the most inconvenient time possible.A real ‘switch-off’!

Gerard Phelan says:
18 November 2013

After the recent typhoon I wanted to donate to Shelterbox, a charity I have given to before then using JustGiving accounts setup by others. Not wishing to donate 5% of my donation to JustGiving I went direct to the Shelterbox website and began my donation, but noticed that their donation forms were not encrypted (http not https – no lock showing when giving my personal details). I did not want to proceed on that basis. Of course it costs money to pay for a secure website, so I rang them up. The person on the other end of the phone was happy to take my card details, but explained they were so busy it would be some time before they could put my details into the “system” to get the money from my card. On reflection it may well cost Shelterbox more than 5% of my donation to handle donations securely, so perhaps it would be better for them to use Just Giving and to openly say it is the ‘cheaper’ and so more efficient option?

Moving from this onto Charity ‘efficiency’. Earlier comments imply that a charity with the lowest administration costs is “better”. IF and ONLY IF the sole purpose of the charity were to be a conduit of money from giver to a known provider of whatever it is that the charity seeks to achieve, then that would be reasonable. This is not the aim of most charities, which try to have direct involvement wherever they operate. If they do not know what they are doing, then the money, though efficiently donated, will be wasted. A second charity working in the same area, though less “efficient”, because of the cost of their research staff could avoid wastage and deliver more results than the first.

An old example of wasted money is the “Tanganyika groundnut scheme” of 1946 when the British government decided to invest a fortune in developing peanut farming in what is now Tanzania, but failed to ask a single question beforehand about the feasibility of such farming in the chosen area. By the time the scheme was abandoned in 1951, £49 Million had been spent, which is £ 1.3 Billion in today’s money. If governments with all their resources can get their spending so wrong, how much more likely is a charity with a big idea but no backup to waste our donations.

I agree with your comments. Whilst I am not over happy about the level of remuneration paid to some of the Charity administrators, the charities will want the very best administrators and fund raisers because they will get back far more than the extra cost of paying for the best. But it does mean that their administration costs will be high. They should be a small proportion of the income raised though.

Just looked at the new Which and I can’t believe that they have written a four page spread on how to manage charitable giving without mentioning the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). I see it mentioned briefly above. My wife and I have a monthly direct debit into CAF; they reclaim the tax, make a small admin charge and then periodically we make payments from our CAF account to charities of our choice. What could be easier or more efficient?