Top tips for giving effectively this Christmas

13 December 2012

I am a fairly new recruit to NPC, having joined the team in September, and it’d be fair to say that my first few months have been a steep learning curve. I’ve taken a lot in and wanted to put this knowledge to good use with a Christmas story, offering some straightforward, useable advice to people thinking about making a charitable donation this festive season.

Coverage of how much charities have been suffering this year has been inescapable—in May our report on commissioning found that one in ten charities are facing closure in 2012. A recent estimate found that public fundraising is down as much as 20%. Some charities are having to close their door, but many more are showing great signs of resilience, finding innovative ways to survive through collaborating, merging, anything to keep going.

Giving money to charity at Christmas is as traditional as turkey and mince pies. As charities do battle with falling incomes whilst facing growing demand for their services, I imagine they’re hoping for a Christmas boost like never before and I’m encouraging my friends and family to dig deep and donate. This may sound simple—but  confronted with the choice of over 160,000 charities in the UK alone, it can be hard to know where best to send your money and to feel confident about its impact.

Which brings us to NPC’s four steps to giving:

  1. Choose a cause: Many people choose to support one of a small number of high profile causes, but consider where your money will make a real difference to a group in need. Think creatively, as a lot of satisfaction can be gained by giving to charities that run projects in your area of interest, such as sport or music for disadvantaged children. It’s also important not to forget some of the grittier areas that perhaps don’t receive as much public support—such as mental health or refugees and asylum seekers.
  2. Pick a charity: Consider whether you want to make a difference on your doorstep (eg, by supporting a local hospice) or contribute to achieving broader change (eg, by giving to a national campaigning organisation). Then do some basic research—which is easy using NPC’s and the Charity Commission’s websites—into which charities’ work really makes a difference to beneficiaries’ lives. Don’t be beguiled simply by emotional pictures of a needy cause, try and work out if this charity has an impact and does so in a cost-effective way. And don’t be distracted by administration costs as the best way of judging a charity’s efficiency— they are not an effective predictor of what an organisation achieves.
  3. Give smart: Whilst charity Christmas gifts attached to a particular scheme can be a nice gesture, unrestricted donations towards the core costs of running a charity can provide a lifeline, particularly for smaller organisations that cannot afford special Christmas marketing. Goats are nice and important but no charity can operate without paying for their IT system or cars to ferry their workers around in difficult parts of the world. It’s also worth checking whether your workplace operates any kind of matched giving scheme as this is an easy way to boost your donation. No amount is too small, and don’t forget to give Gift Aid!
  4. Stay in touch: Giving is not just for Christmas and you will get more satisfaction from your donations if you keep in contact with your chosen charity. And it doesn’t just have to be about money—you can help them by volunteering or donating items to their shops, or you might even consider trusteeship. If you do want to continue to support them financially, payroll giving is an effective method that benefits both you and the charity.

This might seem like quite some effort—it might be tempting to alleviate your conscience by just sticking some money in the first collection tin  rattled under your nose as you finish your Christmas shopping. But you don’t have to be an expert charity analyst to do this and by taking a little  time to follow the above steps you’ll make sure that your money makes the biggest difference to the beneficiaries you want to reach.