Do you know how to make your gift count?

Charity need not begin and end with events such as Band Aid, says Helen Monks
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The Independent Online

AS Band Aid prepares to top the charts again, it is worth remembering that for some people, buying the record might be their only charitable donation all year. Despite major national events such as Remembrance Day, Children in Need and the like, evidence suggests not enough of us are giving our fair share to charity.

AS Band Aid prepares to top the charts again, it is worth remembering that for some people, buying the record might be their only charitable donation all year. Despite major national events such as Remembrance Day, Children in Need and the like, evidence suggests not enough of us are giving our fair share to charity.

The latest British Attitudes Survey indicates almost a third give less than £5 and often nothing at all, compared with the US, where about two per cent of income is given on average. What is perhaps more cause for shame is that the richer we get, the less we seem likely to give generously. A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests that the richest 20 per cent of households give less than one per cent of their household expenditure to charities, while the poorest 10 per cent give three per cent of their expenditure.

There are many cultural barriers that experts say might be to blame for apparent British meanness. These include the traditional reliance on governments to look after the poor, plus the sense that we pay enough taxes and giving to charities lets ineffectual governments off the hook. There might also be a problem with the reticence among generous Brits to talk about charity.

Beth Breeze, deputy director of the Institute for Philanthropy, says: "Many people are willing to give more generously, but if someone who can afford £250,000 gives a charity a cheque for £1,000, the charity is unlikely to show a seeming lack of gratitude and suggest that person gives more. Donors need educating."

The National Giving Campaign recommends we ought to aim to give between one and 1.5 per cent of our income, while other campaigners would like to see two per cent as the norm. Arguably, the other issue preventing seemingly tight-fisted Brits from giving more generously is a general misunderstanding of how charities operate. There are 153,000 registered charities in the UK, with a combined income of £20bn. Here we suggest 10 ways to give and consider the best methods from the charities' points of view:

GOODS AND CREDIT

"Committed, regular and tax-efficient giving, such as regular direct debit payments, is the holy grail for most charities," says Ms Breeze. So where do goods that trigger corporate donations fit in?Affiliated goods include T-shirts, cuddly toys and Christmas cards, and while charities are grateful for every purchase, buying affiliated goods does not seem to meet any of the three ideal giving qualities.When you buy your charity Christmas cards, work out how much a percentage of purchase price is going to charity. Do you feel it is enough and if not, can you then think about setting up a monthly direct debit to the cause, however small? Pulling out your charity credit card at the till can make even the most frivolous purchases feel virtuous.

Charities typically get a first-use payment (a one-off contribu - tion from the company issuing the card of about £3-£20) as well as donations based on the amount you spend (about 0.15-1.25 per cent). Again, this falls outside the committed, regular and tax-efficient way of giving, but the upside is, if you are going to use a credit card anyway, it may as well be for your favourite charity, as affinity cards are becoming increasingly competitive. Stuart Glendinning, of financial product comparison website Moneysupermarket.com, says: "At the start of the year, many of the charity cards were not particularly attractive, but nowadays, they are comparable to standard cards, so both the charity and the customer can win."

GIFT AID

The National Giving Campaign says if every donor gave their contributions tax-effectively, charities could claim an estimated additional £900 million pounds from the Inland Revenue each year.Gift Aid is one of the simplest and most effective ways of giving to charity and means for every pound taxpayers give, the charity receives an extra 28 pence from the Revenue, so a £10 Gift Aid donation, is worth £12.80 to the charity.If you are a UK taxpayer, all you have to do is give the charity a simple Gift Aid declaration. This might involve completing a short form or just giving basic details to the charity over the phone or online.

VOLUNTEERING

If you are cash-poor and time-rich, there are dozens of ways you can volunteer. Volunteering and training organisation CSV provides a range of resources allowing all types of individuals to volunteer for different charities in different ways: full-time, on weekends, if you are studying or an older volunteer, and whether you are a professional or not. CSV also promotes employee volunteering and can tailor programmes for companies and staff. You might be a professional who can offer your legal, medical or other formally recognised skill for free on a regular basis, but you need not be a trained accountant, for example, to make a difference.

If you have a favourite charity for which you would like to raise funds, find out from its community fundraising team about how to become a volunteer fundraiser. This is often a low-cost way to generate income; Cancer Research UK has raised £10m this way in the past year.

If you would like to help communities in developing countries, then VSO - Voluntary Service Overseas - can help you use your skills to make a tangible contribution to fighting poverty. Volunteers are aged between 20 and 75; they live and work with a community in one of 30 or so developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, and usually over a two-year period. Volunteers receive a living allowance, accommodation, insurance and flights, in exchange for what is often a challenging and rewarding experience.

SPONSORED EVENTS

If you are cash-poor and cannot commit to regular volunteering, then organising a fundraising event, be it a marathon, a charity trek to the Himalayas or something more wacky, can generate large one-off chunks of cash for charities and raise their profile. Cancer Research UK, which runs a number of events, including the sponsored walk, run or jog Race for Life, says its national events team has raised about £35m this year alone. Amnesty International says yearly raffles are a cost-effective means of generating £1m, and that donors running marathons or jumping out of planes also generated £1m in income within the past year. If you are having fun raising cash, among the most important things to remember is to deliver all the money pledged in a timely fashion.

Mr Newman says: "It is important to see fundraising through till the end and make sure the charity receives what was promised." Don't forget to make sure all your donors are maximising Gift Aid, otherwise your charity could lose out.

CHARITY SHOPS

Don't forget next time you spring-clean to take anything someone else might find desirable to one of the UK's thousands of charity shops. Cancer Research UK raised £35m in income over the past year through its network of 700 shops nationwide, while Amnesty International's seven shops raised £500,000 of its total £20m annual income. Martin Fields, fundraising and campaigns director at the Children's Society, says: "Giving cash in a regular way through a direct debit or standing order is great, but not everyone can do that. It is important to offer a diverse range of ways to give."

GIFTS IN YOUR WILL

Legacies are an increasingly important source of income for charities. The Children's Society says 41 per cent of the income generated by the public comes from legacies, but that there is more potential to raise even more revenue because the proportion of regular donors remembering their causes in their wills remains low. There are two main methods of leaving gifts to charity: a specific gift which can be either an amount of money or particular items, including jewellery, furniture, stocks and shares or property. Alternatively, you could offer the residue, which is what is left of the value of your estate after all debts and administration expenses have been settled and any specific bequests have been met. Make sure you talk about any gift to a charity with your family to avoid any shocks when the time comes. Mike Warburton, of accountants Grant Thornton, says: "Discussing with your family what you intend to leave to charity might save tension later. It will also give you a chance to explain your motivations."

ESTATE PLANNING

Charities and individuals can benefit considerably from donations in the few years before and after your death. If you plan to make a donation and know you might not have many years left, you can donate while you are still alive, to ensure the charity receives Gift Aid on top. Also, remember any gifts to charities reduce your estate for inheritance tax purposes (IHT is payable at 40 per cent on the assets in your estate over the £263,000 nil-rate threshold).

Mr Warburton says: "You can agree with the Revenue beforehand that certain items will be donated to charity and are therefore outside your estate for inheritance tax purposes."

SHARE GIFTS

If you own very small holdings in companies, or feel your portfolio needs a clear-out, you could donate shares to charity; this gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes. If a share has made a significant gain but you decide to gift it, no CGT will be triggered. If you are a UK taxpayer, you can claim income tax relief on the value of most stocks and securities when you donate them. If the charity to which you wish to donate shares is a large organisation, it may be able to process share donations; if not, you ought to contact ShareGift.

Under ShareGift's scheme, donated shares are re-registered and aggregated until there are enough to sell in bulk. The service is free for donors and if your preferred charity is not on the list of recipients, you can suggest it should be.

PAYROLL GIVING

Payroll Giving lets you make charitable donations direct from gross salary, meaning you get immediate tax relief on the value of your donation. For a basic-rate taxpayer wanting to give a £10 donation, it will cost only £7.80, or £6 for higher-rate taxpayers. Some employers encourage the scheme by matching their employees' donations. You can authorise your employer to deduct a monthly amount. Payroll giving can also be applied to one-off donations.

TALK ABOUT IT

"I do a lot of work for charidee, but I don't like to talk about it" is not just the stuff of old Harry Enfield sketches; many British people remain tight-lipped and embarrassed about their generosity. Some campaigners feel that a good way to increase donations to charities over the long term is being upfront and vocal about our contributions. It is hoped this will help normalise giving to charity, and make our friends and contemporaries think harder about what they are doing and ultimately lead them to do more.

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