Cause and effect: how to choose presents that make a difference
From charity cards to sending animals to Africa, Nargis Ahmad and Julian Knight look for Christmas gifts that will help the developing world
Sunday 14 December 2008
Charities are having a rough time in recession-haunted Britain. A quarter of them have suffered a drop in the amount of donations over the past year, according to a survey by the Charity Commission. So with Christmas round the corner, they are stepping up their efforts on behalf of good causes, not least with present ideas. And one alternative to that pair of socks or bottle of port is to spend the money instead on an ethical gift.
One of the most popular charitable presents – often in the form of a card showing the recipient how their gift is making a difference – is paying for an animal or an infrastructure project that will benefit individuals or communities in the Third World. With Send A Cow, for instance, a single £750 donation pays for a farmer to be given a dairy cow in a developing country, with the charity overseeing the farmer for five years.
Martin Long, head of programmes at Send A Cow, says the impact on that person's life can be enormous: "Milk from one cow is more than enough for a family's needs, and any surplus supply they can sell generates income quickly. What makes this value for money is the 'pass it on' principle," with other members of the community receiving the calves. Knowledge is also passed on, adds Mr Long. "You get a ripple effect with indirect benefits – in essence, neighbours looking over the fence and seeing what the others are doing. This way, one farmer will help nine more."
Less costly presents can still make a big impact. A gift of a donkey, say, costs just £70, while for £20 farmers in Africa can receive vital training in growing crops in as water-efficient a way as possible.
Charitable gifts are big business: last year Oxfam sold 540,000 through its online shop. As well as donkeys, cows, camels and goats, gift buyers can pay for teachers in the developing world or for farm implements. "By paying to train a teacher, they will be passing that knowledge on so that the children will be well educated and work themselves out of poverty if they are given a chance," says Rose Marsh at Oxfam. "And when it comes to livestock such as a goat or camel, it's not just a one-off – it can benefit a family for years to come."
Bear in mind that you won't always know exactly how your money is being used. A close look at the Oxfam website, for example, reveals that donations may be pooled for carrying out charitable projects. However, Good-gifts.org, run by the Charities Advisory Trust, promises to use each donation to buy what is specified at the outset. For instance, the £25 gift of a goat will end with a farmer in an under-developed country actually receiving the livestock, rather than the cash being pooled for an infrastructure project such as building a well or irrigating farmland.
Those hoping to help save the planet, meanwhile, can pay for 25 trees to be planted for as little £8.
If you don't fancy the idea of a charitable gift but still want to do your bit for a good cause then there are charity Christmas cards. However, be careful where you buy your cards from as this can have a dramatic effect on the extent to which the charity benefits. With Oxfam, for example, 71 per cent of the face value goes straight to Oxfam when bought from one of its own shops. But it only receives 10 per cent if bought from another retailer.
Some charity cards give even less to a good cause. The Charities Advisory Trust said earlier this month that around four out of five cards sold on the high street return less than a 10th of the retail price to charities; almost half donate less than 5 per cent. If you do want to go down this route, remember that the Christmas postal delivery deadlines are 18 December for second class and 20 December for first.
Should the season of goodwill tempt you to buck the credit-crunch trend and start giving to charity then there are ways to get the Government to top up your donations. "If you want to maximise your gift, it is important to use a tax-efficient method," says Richard Mason, managing director at advice website Moneyextra.com. "Under Gift Aid, charities can reclaim basic-rate tax on your donation. It's easily done: the charity will send you a simple form to fill in and then it will do the rest.
"Remember: if you give money to collectors on the street, they can't claim the tax back. And these collectors, if they are not volunteers, have to be paid a salary, so only a small amount of money may go to charity,"
Another option for those looking to donate regularly is payroll giving. In essence, this is an arrangement where you can make donations straight to your charity by authorising your employer or pension provider to debit a set amount of money before tax is deducted. The big advantage to charities is that they don't have to go through the rigmarole of claiming the tax back.
Regular payments through payroll giving also make it easier for the charity to budget and plan.
Charity projects: how your cash will be spent
Save the Children
A place for a child at school, first-aid kit for a clinic, equipment for a school for a year: www.savethechildrenshop.co.uk
Disaster aid: www.presentaid.org
Hand-dug well, taps for a village water point: shop.wateraid.org
Gift of spectacles and sight tests for a child; travelling library for African schools: www.goodgifts.org
Plant trees; care for a vulnerable child; train a teacher: www.oxfam.org.uk
Send a Cow
Gifts of animals and training in livestock rearing. www.sendacow.org.uk
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Simon Read: There may be trouble ahead for cohabiting couples who don’t make a will
Money Insider: Would £150 make you switch banks?
Gold-plated pensions – the key to retirement freedom?
Bargain Hunter: Find the deals that have real value beneath the Black Friday hype
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus: Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
iJobs Money & Business
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Langley James : IT Support; Helpdesk, VMware; Manch...
£35000 - £450000 per annum + £3k car, £70k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Do you want to...
£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious financial institution seeks to...
£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: Experienced operational risk professional with ban...
Day In a Page
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens