the art of good deeds

Most of us like to give good causes (many like to practice tithing, which is giving at least 10% away of your income). Years ago, this would be to your place of worship but now with different beliefs (and concern over abuse in the church etc), many prefer instead to give to causes they feel passionate about, whether that’s a local animal sanctuary or homeless shelter or international projects. Also read on reasons why to only give to humane medical research (no animal testing).

The Art of Good Deeds is a book on how to make a positive difference in the world, through simple everyday actions. Philanthrophy is not just for wealthy people who make large donations or grand gestures. This insightful collection encourages us to think deeper on how to make a difference through small donations and crowdfunding campaigns to simple acts of kindness.

The main issues are that often ‘big charity’ spends a greater portion of donations that we would like on  TV ads (the average one costs around £3000) and company cars. There are even ‘chuggers’ (so-called ‘charity muggers’ who get paid to accost you in the street, then sign you up to big charities who want you to donate monthly and leave a legacy, even though you’re iffy about where the money goes. There have been many recent scandals involving big charities, including one hiding allegations of misconduct in Haiti, as it was worried this would affect donations.

Big charity also leads to our streets being inundated with charity shops that often cause thousands in rent, when the money should be going to good causes instead. There’s nothing wrong with paying a manager to run a charity, but the amounts given are sometimes eye-watering for a nonprofit (along with all the perks). Here are some alternative ideas!

how to donate anonymously

Charities Aid Foundation run a scheme where you can set up an account, then put money into it, and use it to donate to charities of your choice. If you tick the ‘anonymous’ box, your details won’t be passed on. The idea is to stop the scandal where vulnerable people (like the lovely poppy seller in Bristol) don’t get their details sold on (at the time of her death, she was giving nearly all her money away, receiving dozens of letters a week from big charities who had bought her name). The foundation also runs a bank account for small charities.

ensure you’re sign up for gift aid

Gift Aid requires a declaration form from taxpayers, so charities can claim an extra 25p on each £1 donated, at no cost to you. You can include all donations from the last 4 years, but you must tell the charities you support if you stop paying enough tax, and there are special rules for higher-rate taxpayers. The government page is very complicated to understand, but presumably that’s the point.

give to small local causes

localgiving was founded by an entrepreneur who appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire. You can find tiny charities in your area that can list on this site, gaining all the benefits of a large site with good traffic, in return for a small percentage to fund the site. Click the map to find good causes.

Neighbourly is an award-winning giving platform where businesses can donate volunteer time, money and surplus products (food hygiene certificates required) all in one place.

spend & give at the same time

Viva! vegan sweatshirt

Clothing brands that help animal charities offer organic cotton t-shirts and hoodies. So when time comes to replace, you can restock your wardrobe and donate to charities at the same time!

Charity Bank has simple savings accounts with short application forms. Money deposited is used to do good for local community projects. So it’s kind of like a bank and charity at the same time.

how tiny charities can raise funds

Teemill is a company run by Isle of Wight fashion brand Rapanui. Small charities can create original designs, then the company will send out ‘print-on-demand’ organic cotton t-shirts in zero waste packaging (printed locally with green energy) to your supporters, and you raise money. At end of life, the t-shirts (and sweatshirts and baseball caps) can all be sent back for recycling into new items.

Crowdfunder is a non-profit version of business crowdfunding, where you list your cause for people to pool small amounts. From building hedgehog hospitals to buying community pubs and refurbishing indie cinemas, there is something for everyone.

find out how charities spend your donations

The Charity Commission is a useful site to bookmark. Just enter the charity you are consider donating it, and it will tell you how the charity spends its money. It’s not always true that the big charities spend all their money on company cars and free pens, but some do. But it does give a good overview of why helping tiny charities is usually a better use of your money. We took two examples to compare:

British Heart Foundation uses out-dated animal tests when humane research is kinder, quicker and cheaper as well as being more accurate. It gets income of over £300 million a year. It has over 4000 paid employees (at least 40 earn over £60K a year).

No-one is suggesting that big charities don’t have some paid employees. But this does seem to be more of a ‘business’ to keep the status quo. If heart disease was cured tomorrow (and according to some US doctors using pioneering methods through diet and exercise, proven through angiograms, it already has been), there is a vested interest in not promoting the methods already being used to reverse angina through diet and fitness. Or at least why are these studies not being promoted on the website?

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