Make sure your charity gift comes home to roost

Send a chicken to Africa; use an affinity card to benefit a favourite charity... Whatever you give this Christmas, your generosity will go further with financial know-how

You might hear plenty of Scrooge-like "Bah, humbug!" over the next few weeks but there will still be a lot of festive spirit about.

Many of us like to give to the less fortunate at Christmas, whether in the form of coins for carol singers, charity cards, purchases made from a charity catalogue or simply donating to a good cause.

But these and other acts of goodwill often prove to be less munificent than they could be because we aren't giving to charities as efficiently as we might.

While it is, of course, better to give than to not do so at all, you should always try to make the most of your generosity.

Here, we show you what to watch for to make sure your charitable instincts really count.

Christmas cards

When sending messages of festive cheer, many people choose cards that benefit good causes.

But beware - the amount going to help a charity can vary enormously depending on the card you buy.

In many cases, less than 10 per cent of the purchase price is actually donated, according to the Charities Advisory Trust (CAT), the organisation behind the annual "Scrooge Awards".

Over the past five years, the CAT has exposed many of the worst offenders in the charity Christmas cards market. "Retailers have been shamed into raising the amount going to charity," says Hilary Blume, the CAT's spokeswoman. "For example, we are delighted that John Lewis [which gave a mere 4 per cent from the sale of some cards last year] is now offering an own-brand range with 25 per cent going to charity."

Elsewhere, Ms Blume also applauds WH Smith, whose donations on its own range of charity cards have shot up from 8 per cent last year to 20 per cent.

But not all retailers have cleaned up their act.

This year, the CAT's Scrooge Award goes to London's most famous department store, Harrods, which is offering 35 designs with only 3 per cent of the purchase price going to charity, and a further 73 designs where less than 5 per cent is donated.

It has also awarded another plush London store, Liberty, with the Georgie Porgy Award for the Greedy for the second year in a row. It is selling a card that gives just 2.9 per cent to the Meningitis Trust.

Ms Blume urges consumers to boycott any card where the donation goes below 10 per cent. She advises shoppers to buy at temporary Card Aid shops, which are now open (often in churches or libraries) in London and other parts of the country. Card Aid guarantees that at least 40 per cent of the purchase price goes to charity - rising to as much as 60 per cent if you buy online (see below).

Credit cards

While piling up your purchases, you may want to do your bit by putting them on a charity gift card or affinity card that promises to raise money for a good cause.

Most cards make a one-off donation on the first purchase; then, each time you use the card, a small percentage of the amount you spend will go to the charity.

But Stuart Glendinning of price comparison service moneysupermarket.com is unimpressed, warning: "These cards offer little in the way of financial or charitable benefit."

The annual percentage rates (APRs) on the cards can be high - which means they are really suited only to people who pay off their debt in full each month.

And cards that pay a portion of your spend each time you shop usually offer only 25p on every £100.

If you do take one out, one of the better cards, says Mr Glendinning, is Amex Red. "This stands out by virtue of the amount that is donated to charity - at least 1 per cent - with a competitive typical APR of 12.9 per cent."

Alternatively, he chooses Oxfam's Advantage Platinum, with a typical APR of 14.9. It comes with a 0 per cent interest deal for both balance transfers and purchases for the first six months. Oxfam receives £15 when the account is opened and £2.50 if the account is used within the first six months - plus 25p for every £100 spent or transferred to the card.

One of the least competitive offerings, according to Mr Glendinning, is the Comic Relief card from Nationwide building society. This has a typical APR of 17.9 per cent and no 0 per cent period for transfers or purchases. It donates just £6 when first used, and 0.5 per cent thereafter.

Consumers would be better off, he says, taking out the GE Money Transformation card, offering 0 per cent on purchases for 12 months and 0 per cent on balance transfers until 1 May 2008. "You could then donate the cash you save directly to the charity of your choice."

'Good' gifts

If you're fed up with all the consumerism at Christmas, you may prefer to give an "ethical" gift. These can take the form of goats or chickens, agricultural training courses, school books or other essentials for communities in the developing world. Closer to home, you might want to sponsor a guide dog puppy or pay for a family on a low income to go to the seaside.

Flick through the pages of this year's Good Gifts catalogue, run by the CAT, and you will find gifts from as little as £3 (for a paraffin lamp to light a hut in an African village).

"Goats are still the big sellers, along with chickens and also ducks," says Ms Blume. "But we are now out of the tanks and Kalashnikovs [to be turned into agricultural tools] that were so popular last year."

Good Gifts guarantees that the money you donate goes directly to that cause, and not into a pool of funds. "This means that if you buy a goat for an orphan in Rwanda, a goat is given to an orphan in Rwanda," says Ms Blume. "Any gift you purchase can be traced directly to the beneficiary."

Elsewhere, other charities offer similar schemes: Oxfam has the Unwrapped catalogue, while Christian Aid runs Present Aid. But Ms Blume says these charities do not necessarily spend the money on the item requested: "Although [those receiving an ethical gift] get a card saying 'I gave you a goat', the small print reads, 'We use the money where it is most needed'."

Oxfam insists that "all gifts on its website are needed", but says it has to remain flexible by responding to varying needs across the world as they occur. This, it says, means that in some cases "what we have shown [in the gift catalogue] is an example, but we will always spend your money on a related item".

So, if you buy a goat or donkey, or an animal-care kit, your gift could end up being used to fund the livestock "more appropriate to the individual community".

"We are very open about this," says a spokeswoman. "If we sell enough goats to fulfil the quota required by a country, we may use the money to buy a donkey instead, say. We won't just send out more goats for the sake of it."

Christian Aid operates a similar policy.

Charitable giving

If you are going to give to charity this Christmas, make the most of tax relief available on donations.

"Using Gift Aid [to give to a UK-registered charity] means the charity will receive an extra 28 per cent," says John Bunker, tax-planning partner at law firm Thomas Eggar. "For example, if you give £100, tax can be reclaimed and added to your donation - making it worth £128 to the charity."

Higher-rate taxpayers, he adds, can claim 18 per cent personal relief on the gross value of their donation - which works out at £23 for every £100 donated.

Another way to give tax efficiently is through the payroll-giving scheme.

"If you are paid through Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and your employer has a payroll-giving scheme in place, you can donate to charity from your salary before it is taxed," adds Mr Bunker. "This means a monthly gift of £20 will cost a basic rate taxpayer £15.60 from their net pay - or just £12 if you are a higher-rate taxpayer."

Contacts: www.cardaid.co.uk; goodgifts.org; oxfamunwrapped.com; presentaid.org

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
people
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
News
people... and stop them from attacking people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?