Monday, 22 July 2013

How to check your charitable donations go where you want them to.

"I don't give to charity - they just spend the money on advertising and legal proceedings anyway."

I hear this a lot when I talk about giving to charity and I can see where this opinion comes from. Tarnished forever by the actions of charity hawkers in the street, people now view giving as a hassle, and one that won't necessarily end up with any noticeable or fulfilling outcome.

In March 2014 the Charity Commission's data held on the annual returns of charities will be made free open data, however until this point, it's fair to think that charitable donations aren't making any difference. After all, how can you really tell if your charity is keeping their spends a secret?

I give to charity and always have ever since I earned enough money to sustain myself and then have a bit left over for having fun with. I figured since so many people have helped me out over the years (see 'the week my cat died', 'the time our family were technically homeless' and 'all the times I've called free organisations like Citizen's Advice Bureau for advice') this was the best way to give something back to the universe (or whatever). As much as I'd love to be of more practical, personal assistance to my charities of choice, I either can't - I'm in the wrong country for starters - or quite simply, money is far more useful to them.


Macmillan Cancer Support - "How we raise and spend our money"


If giving to charity is only something you do not do because you're afraid your money will only go towards a fancy TV advert or an MD's large salary, this is no cynical thing. At least you're thinking about what you're doing and not giving blindly to the first charity that comes your way. Not all charities and philanthropic organisations act in this way though and it's fairly easy to do some research and find out how to help the people/animals/countries/wildlife/plants/insects/planet in a way you feel suits you best.

Many charities - like British Red Cross as seen here or like Amnesty International seen here - break down their spending in a visible manner, however not every organisation is as transparent.

Alive and Giving is basically a charity comparison website. It helps prospective givers to find out which organisations offer the best 'value for money' - that is, how much of your hard-earned cash will be tied up in fees and legal costs, and how much of it will actually reach it's intended recipient.

Choosing from the type of charity (so "humanitarian", "agricultural", "medicinal" etc.) and then by location, it's also really handy to help you find out about smaller charities doing work in fields you a) are really interested in and concerned about b) may never have heard of before due to their small size, minute advertising budget and remote/local location.

I tend to research charities a lot before I give money to them (why on earth would you give money away when you don't know where it's going?) and I'm glad there's now a site dedicated to encouraging others to do the same.

Visit http://www.aliveandgiving.com/ To find out more about charities you already support or to find a new one you m ight never have heard of which sums up your morals and beliefs entirely.

Sidenote - Some charities aren't included in the scheme which could be for a number of reasons, most likely being that they decided not to opt-in to be scrutinised. I am of the opinion smaller charities do more to help their chosen causes anyway, however if you're looking for an organisation who isn't listed, check their official website to see if their financial info is listed (usually under "FAQs" or "more about us"). Often it is. If it isn't, the choice is entirely yours.

More interesting links: 
Development tracker - how the UK invests in developing countries
Ipsos Mori's report - "Public perceptions of Charity"
5 things charities are spending your money on - LoveMoney
The "non profits" who spend most of their money on fundraising International Business Times (America)
Is the way we view charity spending counter-productive? - The Guardian

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