Giving and the art of blackberry picking

At this time of year, when I go out to gather blackberries, I am reminded of my mother giving me her wise advice on picking:

  1. Only pick blackberries above the height that the tallest dog can pee.
  2. No blackberry is worth dying for.

As well as being sage advice for blackberry picking, it can also be applied when it comes to selecting the best charities to give money to.

Let’s take rule number one. There are basic flaws and issues that mean some charities are best avoided. As an example: the ones that don’t have good safeguarding practice, have badly managed finances or poor structures. Just because they are there and available, does not mean they are good. There may be very solid reasons why no one is funding them already.

There are lots of blackberries above the ‘basic hygiene line’ and many charities are above the basic requirements too – they are doing good work and are also well run. The issue is that there are lots to choose from. The art to selecting is knowing where to find best practice; that some are a little better than others; and they vary in size and ambition. Context is also important – you want to fund at the right time. Despite the choice available, it will still take effort to select the best and you may well need help to find the charities that best match your preferences.

And so to rule number two. There are always big, juicy blackberries which are tantalisingly out of reach. Balancing on one leg at the top of a ditch to try and reach them is a risky business. There are rich rewards for those who come prepared with ladders and protective clothing – but it is not a job for the ill-equipped. I think of these being the pioneering charities working in new or difficult fields. You need to know what you’re doing when funding them and be prepared to take the risks. If you over reach yourself then you may be giving money to a charity that folds. But if you have experience and do the right preparation then you should reap significant social impact rewards.

So enjoy your blackberry crumbles, pies and jam this autumn. And keep my mother’s advice in mind when choosing a charity to donate to. I wish you rich pickings.