Tips for giving

Christmas is a time for giving …

Every Christmas a group of my friends pick a charity to support instead of giving each other presents. And because it is my job to assess charities, they ask me which one I would recommend. Many people do this, but most won’t have a philanthropy advisor to help.

It is easy to pick the usual big brand charities but there are lots of great, smaller charities out there where your donation could make a bigger difference. To find them try one of the tools available such as CharityChoice, Charity Navigator, CAF, or Localgiving to help you select a charity working for a cause you are passionate about.

But then how do you know if they are any good? It is my job to advise on which charities should be funded based on desk-based research, assessment interviews, scrutinising accounts and panel discussions. I don’t recommend you do all that before parting with £100, but here are five quick things you can do to reassure yourself that your money will be well used:

  1. Check out the charity’s website – this should at least let you know they are active and is likely to include case studies about the difference they make. It may also show if they are members of any professional bodies or hold any quality marks.
  2. See who else has funded them – if they’ve had money from say Comic Relief or the Big Lottery Fund recently then you can rest assured that a professional assessor has had a good look at them.
  3. Consider keeping it local – there are 48 Community Foundations in the UK that pool donations to fund local projects. Again, all checked by them as part of the grant giving process.
  4. Look your chosen charity up on the Charity Commission website. You may not want to read all their accounts but there is an overview page that will tell you how big they are and if they have reported as they should and on time.
  5. Ask around – friends, family and colleagues may well know of a charity that really supported them when they, or someone they know, needed help.

There are some brilliant charities around that don’t have money for high profile marketing so it pays to dig a little to give you the confidence to give to charities which aren’t necessarily the household names.

… giving more …

Look out for ways to increase your giving, for example the Big Give Christmas Challenge will see donations made from 5th to 14th December matched. Some employers run matching schemes so it is worth asking if they will double your donation. And don’t forget gift aid increases your donation by 25%.

… giving together …

Pooling money with friends means your chosen charity gets a larger donation. You can also take part in giving circles or live crowdfunding events like those run by The Funding Network or the Soup method. (The latter is an idea from Detroit that is taking off in the UK where people come together over soup to hear pitches and vote on who gets the money taken on the door).

… and receiving.

Research shows we are happier when we give to others. So giving well to a charity of your choosing should bring you a bit of festive cheer too.