The most effective ways to give to charity
Tim Bennett Dec 07, 2012
Good news for harassed Christmas shoppers – new rules came into force this year restricting chuggers (“charity muggers”) from standing in shop doors with their collecting tins and adopting other aggressive tactics.
Believe it or not, under Public Fundraising Regulatory Rules, a chugger is not even supposed to follow you more than three paces down the street (although we’re not entirely sure how easy that rule will be to enforce).
Aggressive chugging has certainly not helped charities raise more money against the tough economic backdrop. The Co-op found that 16% of people plan to cut back on donations this Christmas, while UK Giving discovered that donations have fallen by 20% in real terms (after inflation) just over the last 12 months, coinciding with Britain’s double-dip recession being announced in February.
No wonder then that small and medium-sized charities have reported total deficits of more than £300m in 2011, compared to surpluses of £325m in 2007, according to The Daily Telegraph’s Rosie Murray-West. So if you’re planning to donate money at Christmas this year, how can you maximise its impact? The first step is to make sure you boost any contributions using gift aid. This requires a tiny bit more effort than simply sticking some coins in a collecting tin – you have to fill in a short form – but it means the charity can reclaim basic-rate tax on your donation.
As a higher or additional-rate taxpayer you can also claim the extra tax above the basic rate back for yourself via your annual self-assessment. So always ask for a gift-aid form before making a donation.
If you are employed, there’s another neat scheme available called “Give As You Earn”. The money you want to donate is deducted from your salary before you pay tax on it. In plain English, a £15 donation will cost a 20% taxpayer £12 and a 40% taxpayer £9. This scheme has another advantage in that it commits you to regular giving, and it often means that less of the amount you donate goes on overheads and processing costs. As a bonus it also allows you to walk past the chuggers with a clean conscience.
You can, of course, have a good pre-Christmas clear-out and give old books, clothes and toys to a charity shop of your choice. But give your portfolio a clear out too – if you have any old shares hanging about that you haven’t got rid of – due to dealing costs, perhaps – then you can gift these free of tax. See Sharegift.org.
Choosing who to give to isn’t always easy unless you already have a preferred cause. For those who prefer to support smaller, local charities rather than the larger, national ones, try Localgiving.com for a list of those in your area.
Finally, if you haven’t had a chance to send your Christmas cards yet, charity cards can be a good option. But be careful, as some cards give a lot more than others. The Charities Advisory Trust, which helps charities to improve their methods of raising money, notes that with some cards, less than 10% of the price goes to the good cause it purports to support – high-street chains are particularly grievous offenders. A good alternative is to buy direct from the charity of your choice, or try Cardsforcharity.co.uk – it aims to get 75p in every £1 spent on its cards to charity.