On my way to visiting a charity the other day, I stopped at an ATM to get cash. It was the sort of ATM which asks you if you want to donate to charity. Out of curiosity I pressed that button and my options included British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, ChildLine, Young Minds. Probably all good causes and also charities of a scale that can negotiate inclusion on a national ATM network.
The charity I was visiting was just two doors down. It is the sort of small, local charity that comes to mind when people think of a ‘charity’. It supports homeless people into private rented flats and helps them keep their tenancies. It is heart-driven: the kind of place where staff drive across town to collect a donated radiator when a client’s heating has stopped working. It is small: two staff and operating on c. £50k per year. If you are homeless you will have heard of this charity or will be directed to it pretty quickly. Otherwise, they struggle to get themselves known.
In the UK, we have campaigns to source food locally and shop locally. But what about giving locally?
For those making donations, giving to a local charity makes a lot of sense. You are likely to understand the issues and see the results of their work. You can visit the charity and so can better trust that your donation makes a difference. Your donation is also more likely to have a bigger impact as local charities tend to be smaller - £500 is a huge windfall for a charity running on £50k per year.
There are arguments against local giving. If we all give locally then the money tends to go to those living near to the wealthy and not those in the greatest need. As Caroline Fiennes says in her book ‘It ain’t what you give it’s the way that you give it’: “some of the most under-resourced and horrible issues remain out of reach to local donors”. Many donors like to give to groups both at home and overseas for that very reason. And it is also important to remember that local does not necessarily mean good. So do always check out the effectiveness and support those doing a good job. (see my blog ‘Tips for giving’: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tips-giving-emma-beeston)
But don’t be lured by the easy option of hitting the ATM button. You may well be just a few steps away from a great charity where your donation will be appreciated even more.