The run up to Christmas is known to be a time for giving. In-fact, data gathered from theBigGive.org.uk, shows that the British public donates up to five times more during the festive period than they do at any other time of the year – what a generous bunch we are!
Marking #GivingTuesday, a global event highlighting the joys of charitable giving, philanthropist and founder of Good Egg company EQ Investors John Spiers outlines his top tips for doing the ultimate Good with your money: giving it away.
Decide what you really want to achieve
Take time to consider which issues or causes mean something to you that you would like to support. Often they are things which have affected you or someone close to you or that you feel passionately about. However, it’s always helpful to take a step back and consider where you can make the most impact and analyse which charities are best placed to deliver on the issue that you care about. Whilst they’re a bit US-centric, sites like givewell.org and givingwhatyoucan.org are helpful to start thinking through these issues.
Do some due diligence
It’s worth doing a little bit of sense checking before you make a gift. It makes sense to do more due diligence the larger the sums of money you are giving. However, I’d always recommend having a look at the charity’s website and try and answer these three questions: Does this charity programme work? See how they articulate their impact, some charities often use a ‘Theory of Change’ to explain this – search for it or contact the charity to ask for a copy. Is the organisation well run? The world is full of great ideas; executing them well is where most fall down – look at their executives and board. Is there a plan to develop a reliable source of funding? Charities will often publish this in their strategy and/or will provide an overview of where their funding comes from.
Avoid the charity myths
There are lots of misconceptions about charitable giving which I always try to challenge. Firstly, worrying about overheads. We all want want to support organisations that are run efficiently but a simple measure of admin costs as a proportion of total spending will not tell you anything useful. It’s worth watching Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk for more information as to why this can be a false economy. Secondly, spreading donations reduces risk. If you are building an investment portfolio you will be advised to diversify widely to reduce specific risks. However, you can minimise costs for charities by keeping your support focused and may gain more access to an organisation if you make a larger donation. Finally, history is strewn with tales of well meaning but ill-informed altruists who thought that they knew best but try and tackle problems without enough knowledge or experience. One of the best innovations in charitable giving is givedirectly.org which does exactly what it says on the tin and empowers the beneficiaries to decide directly how to use your donation.
Seek out the best charities
What makes one charity better than another is to a degree subjective and it can be difficult to make this decision. My best advice on this would be to piggyback on advice of experts who have invested time and resource in searching out the best charities. For local charities, you might like to find out from your local Community Foundation. Internationally, which organisations are being supported by the likes of The Gates Foundation or DFID? Another approach is to look at recent winners of awards such as those granted by Third Sector, Charity Times, or the Centre for Social Justice.
Maximise your giving
One of my favourite mechanisms of giving is matched giving, the concept being that one donor commits an amount of money, conditional on others providing a similar amount. This is an effective force in galvanising support for a cause. It is used with great effect in a campaign I support called the Christmas Challenge run by theBigGive.org.uk where all donations made between 27th November and 4th December are doubled. The EQ Foundation is match funding 6 charities working on social mobility which you can view at https://secure.thebiggive.org.uk/eq#!/.
You can download a copy of EQ’s new ‘Giving is Great’ handbook from their website here.