Thursday, 5 April 2012

How Much Should You Give to Charity?

A recent post on decluttering via eBay sparked a little debate in the comments. Is it right to sell things you no longer want for your own gain, or should you donate them to charity shops?

Some felt disenfranchised by charity shops. The amount that they charge for second hand clothes has soared up almost to the original retail price, meaning whilst you are giving money to charity, you almost resent doing so!

Why donate to charity?
Although the majority of charitable donations in the UK go to medical research, I personally think that the most important issue is international aid.

UNICEF estimated that 24,000 children under the age of five die every day, most from preventable causes directly linked to extreme poverty, with undernutrition contributing to about one-third of these deaths. As bioethics philosopher Peter Singer said, if you could save a drowning child, you would, with no regard for ruining your suit or the expensive shoes you were wearing.

How many people donate?
In the UK, 58% of UK adults will donate to charity in any one month. I was shocked to learn that I am in the group least likely to donate to charity (47% of women aged 16-24, compared to 49% of men the same age, or 67% of women aged 45-64).

How much is “enough”?
One solution to the eBay vs. charity shops debate would be to donate a proportion of all income you receive to charity. But how much is “enough”? Some religious groups suggest giving a tithe (10% of all your income). Americans give an average of 1.6%, with the poorest giving proportionally more than everyone else. British people give just 0.7% of their income, although this was significantly more than the 0.14% of French incomes.

David Cameron's plan for Big Society is to increase philanthropic giving, with suggestions for people to donate 1% of their income to charity. Loathe as I am to agree with anything that man says, I must admit that I think that's a reasonable suggestion. It is estimated that to alleviate extreme poverty people earning under $105,000 (£66,000) should donate 1% of their income, with those earning more than this threshold donating proportionally more.

This may sound a lot for people on low incomes, but if you are earning say £12000 a year, 1% is £10 a month. Most people waste a lot more than that on alcohol alone.

How much are you giving each year?
Donations can be achieved in a number of ways. You may already be giving more than you think you are.
  • Do you make a regular (monthly) donation to charity?
  • Have you sponsored friends/relatives to do something?
  • Do you buy from charity shops?
  • Have you called in to a telethon or texted to donate?
  • Do you give items to charity shops?
  • Do you volunteer your time?

Other ways to give
Back in January I wrote about charitable giving on a budget, with ways to give objects, time and money to people who need it.

I think the most important thing is simply to do something!

Who to give to?
If you want your money to do the most good, you need to know how it will be spent. Visit GiveWell to find the top-rated charities by measure of the significantly improving lives in a cost-effective way.


Frugal Down Under said...

I sponsored a teenager in Haiti 5 years ago. She's now 20 but due to the earthquakes they have not stopped my sponsorship of her and I want her to have a better chance at life.

Once my sponsorship is terminated I will cut back by half and choose a different org as I can't afford it with my cut back hours.

Spankthemagicmonkey said...

Nice post! I agree whole-heartedly with giving to international causes. I believe that instead of thinking on a per country basis, in the future we should look towards a more global overview.

This post actually made me think quite heavily about my reasons for donating to charity. At the moment sport relief is going on in the UK helping to raise awareness for a number of causes. One that caught my eye was “John Bishop’s Week of Hell” where he cycled, rowed and run 295 mi across France, the channel and England. He raised £3,412,261. Since I’ve been thinking that in my normal lifestyle I never think about people outside my immediate contact and I think that’s the problem with low donations. Generally when I see the adverts on TV I see it as dislocated from what I know and therefore not important. When I donated to Sport Relief I realised that I wasn’t donating for the cause but because of the feat performed. I think people should be exposed more severely to just what is going on with plain clear facts that will perhaps bring it on home for them.

In regards to how the money is spent I think that rather than just supplying food to third world countries constantly (although I do recognise the importance of this as a short term strategy) the key factor is building an infrastructure in these countries so that they can start earning money and creating food for themselves. This would alleviate the reliance upon aid and allow everyone to start focusing on more important issues. Much of this from what little I’ve read seems to be centred around the Governments in place creating a very large gap between the richest and poorest people. To change anything firstly we need to change the governments in charge that will stop the money being thrown down the pan.

Anyway rant over! Cheers for the thought provoking post.

Spankthemagicmonkey. xx

Scarlet said...

Despite my low income I give a set amount each month to the local heart charity which helped me. At Christmas I made another donation to them rather than buying Christmas cards and stamps- they were very grateful - far more grateful than anyone would have been to receive a card from me. I buy from charity shops but have stopped donating to them. Too many perfectly good things never see the shelves in the shop - old linens are immediately put into the rag bag,the same with clothes which are deemed to be old fashioned. If the shop managers opened their eyes they would see that many young people are now wearing that style of clothes and are only too happy to shop in charity shops. Only last week I saw black sacks being filled with glassware and other items in the back of the local Save the Children shop. Their destination? The skip at the back of the parade of shops.

Meanqueen said...

I give donations, what I can afford and when I can afford it, to animal charities, mainly local because I know the money will not get swallowed up in a big pot.

saving for travel said...

I sponsor a little girl in India.

I shop in charity shops all the time.

I try to do as much as I can.

Sft x

Eleanor x said...

I donate monthly via my wages to charity,
I sponsor any family member, work mate or friend who asks me to,
I shop often in charity shops,
I give regularly to charity shops,
I give to CiN, Comic Relief etc,
I regularly put my change in the charity box at the till,
which is why I was quite annoyed at the suggestion I cared only for myself by a poster during your ebay post
Good luck with your frugalness, you have a very wise head for one so young x

cumbrian said...

Do you make a regular (monthly) donation to charity? - No, I beleive too much of it is taken by overheads, administration, etc.
Have you sponsored friends/relatives to do something? - Yes
Do you buy from charity shops? - Yes
Have you called in to a telethon or texted to donate? - No
Do you give items to charity shops? - Yes
Do you volunteer your time? - No

Anonymous said...

I'm torn between saving money for my kids and I (we live at my parents at the moment) for a home , education and the future and giving to charity. I'm on a low income but try and give when I can be that donating to a charity shop, giving a monetary donation or buying a Big Issue newspaper. I like to give but I must admit I do feel more and more under pressure to give with Big Issue sellers on every corner and charity ads on the tv every few seconds. It's an issue which gives me many a concerned moment as to where I should be putting my priorities. Jules

Practical Parsimony said...

I do not give money to charity. For international aid it is siphoned off and only the govt officials profit. Have you seen the cities in Africa that are wealthy beyone compare who should be helping their own. I do not give to anything if the money or items go overseas. I give to thrift stores that supply local needs. I volunteer time. I actually help those in need with other things rather than money. How can I give to the poor in other countries when people within arm's reach are suffering?

quinn said...

I donate 5% of my income to charities every year; divided evenly between local animal shelters and international conservation groups like the Snow Leopard Trust. Sometimes 5% doesn't add up to a lot, but sometimes it does, and doing a straight percentage helps "keep me honest."
Most of my non-grocery shopping is at thrift shops and charity tag sales, etc. Rarely have any good "stuff" to give away, but what there is goes to a thrift shop or Freecycle.
I donate my time/services when asked.
Occasionally I've given donations as gifts, but only when I know the recipients cannot be contacted for future donations. For example, I "adopted" a snow leopard family for a couple getting married (two professionals, already homeowners, quite comfortable financially, and animal lovers) and they said it was the coolest gift they received :)

nic said...

Hello and happy Easter,
I found yet another way of giving: Check my blog. It doesn't cost a penny and is sugar and calorie free.
xxx nic

Anonymous said...


This is a great article. Thank you so very much. I found the research paper on global salary giving very interesting. Trying to research this was my reason for finding your blog.

My wife sometimes thinks that we give too much, but I suspect we give too little. We are in the developed world so very rich, simply as a result of our situation of birth. We have no RIGHT to a better standard of living than anyone else on the planet.

My wife and I currently give about 2.5% of our income. There are so many good causes that we find it hard to say no, giving to about 10 charities in all. Our particular areas of concern are environment, poverty and children, but everyone has their preferences.

I note an earlier poster mentioning not giving to charities due to concerns that only a small percentage "gets to the needy". I think that this cannot be a reason for not giving as ALL charities will have overheads. The level of overhead/versus benefit can be researched for all charities.

The time to give is now. Time to share your good fortune.

Thanks for reading :-)


Anonymous said...

I like that you are thinking about giving to others--kudos! I know we are a rarity--we tithe (10%) to our church. Some of the breakdown is for overhead costs, and much of it goes to both local needs as well as overseas missions. Why do we do this? We believe everything we have was given to us by God and it is an expression of our gratefulness to Him. I am not suggesting everyone do this--it is a response of your heart--but I have found that, the more I give, the more willing I am to give more. Ironically, giving money away helps me manage my money better. A couple of years ago I decided to purchase items for a food pantry out of my grocery budget. I became much more aware of the non-essentials on my grocery list when I didn't have that same amount of money available. It also softened my heart towards others in my community who can't afford groceries for their families.

Just a few random thoughts! Nigel had some nice comments that I appreciated.

Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!

Gifts That Matter said...

Also, look through the means of donation that they have and choose one that best works for you. If its an online tool, then make sure that they have their security measures in place.

Gretta Hewson said...

I think you're going to have to work out on your own what's reasonable in your situation and how much you can contribute while meeting your financial obligations to your family.

Gretta Hewson
SEO Phoenix