How to give to charity with confidence

Andy Webb

We’re a nation that likes to give. Even during tough economic times, Brits continue to donate to charity, with the Charities Aid Foundation reporting that almost two thirds of us give money each year. But is that money going where you think it is? Here are a few ways to make sure as much cash as possible is going to the causes you support.

Watch out for fees when you sponsor

From fun runs to mountain climbing, it’s great when friends and family members do something to raise awareness and money. Donation websites such as Just Giving and Virgin Giving make it much easier for people to donate to support their efforts, and they’re now the most common way for people to raise money.

And when you do this, you’d be forgiven for expecting all your money to go straight to the charity. However, that’s not always the case.

Virgin Giving takes 3.5 per cent in fees from your money, as well as charging charities £150 + VAT to be registered. Just Giving’s fees are higher, taking 5 per cent in fees per transaction and a 1.25 per cent transaction fee, alongside a monthly fee to charities that’s between £15 and £39 + VAT.

If you’d rather more money goes directly to the charity, whether when fundraising or sponsoring someone else, then MyDonate is a better option. Their only charge is a 15p card transaction fee.

Find out how much money is spent on overheads

To do their good work, charities also have to pay for staff, offices and other expenses, meaning the money you donate can quickly be eaten up funding people and places—and not the cause.

You can use the website aliveandgiving.com to check the percentage of funds that goes to the people who need it, rather than fundraising and governance.

You might find that smaller, local charities are a better bet for your donation as they will often have lower overheads.

Give more with tax breaks

You can add 25 per cent to your donations by ticking the Gift Aid box when you give. As long as you’re paying income tax, the charity can claim the tax back. So a £10 donation will be worth £12.50 to the charity.

It’s easier still, and better for the charities, if you give through Payroll Giving, where the donation is given by your employer when you get paid, and the tax automatically added on—saving the charities the cost of claiming it back.

Check the charity

There’s often a worry that people asking for your money, particularly people who come to your door or stop you on the street aren’t legitimate. If the collector is pushy, details seem wrong or wording is misspelt, then it’s safest to politely say “no thanks”, and opt to donate directly instead.

Be careful of information they give you—it could include fake website addresses or phone numbers. Instead, look up registered charities’ details on the charitycommission.gov.uk website.