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Man About Town: Feel good for charity


Of all the invitations I am lucky enough to receive, around a quarter have something to do with charity. Be they fundraisers, dinners or auctions, this end of the charitable activities spectrum is usually the most comfortable.

Guests can feel good just by mingling and drinking the free champagne (usually provided by a sponsor). If they want to feel especially good about themselves, they can listen to the speech on the worthiness of whatever cause it is we’re noticing that evening. They might even get their photo taken.

I’ve seen one billionaire spend more than £20,000 on a table tennis lesson at a charity auction, and witnessed countless times the way a garrulous auctioneer, an eager spouse and a willing audience can push the nation’s plutocrats and captains of industry to pay over the odds for jewellery, art and exotic holidays all in the name of “charidee”.

The cigar-smoking media mogul Richard Desmond was on a stage in London this week as he helped launch the health lottery. The new game encourages us to buy tickets, with all the money going to health charities.

People always feel good about winning money, or trying to win money. And patrons such as Desmond can feel good that they’re raising money for charity in the warm glow of the public spotlight.

The same was true at the Serpentine Gallery last week. There, the Future Contemporaries party, brought together the group of under forties whose £1,000 per year each helps to finance the gallery and keep it free.

For that sum, members get to be part of an select (and very good looking) cadre of art-lovers with access to exclusive events and a glamorous party each year – almost as good as a member’s club.

A study earlier this month discovered that the average household in this country spends as much on cheese as we do on charity – 0.4 per cent of income, a number that has remained fairly static over the years.

In the meantime, a Barclay’s Wealth report survey concludes that better targeted philanthropy could save the UK tax payer £100bn a year.

Last week I wrote how big brands are cashing in on the cachet of cool, by aligning themselves with creative types and their work. The same could be true for charity givers. In the eyes of the party crowd, they never looked better.