How to give to charity
When times are tough money-wise, should you still be giving to charity? Can you really afford to give to charity? Well, yes, because relatively most of us are well-off financially compared to people in many other countries, and sharing is important on both a practical and a symbolic level.
And it's a win-win because giving to charity - whether it's your time or money - has been found to increase personal happiness. Plus, giving as a family introduces your children to ideas of justice and the importance of sharing.
OK, so that's the principle. In practice, if you're genuinely strapped for cash yourself and having to make tough choices about your own spending, how can you ensure your precious dosh does as much good as it possibly can?
If you are a taxpayer, the most beneficial ways to give are donating through your payroll and signing a Gift Aid declaration whenever you make a charitable donation or sponsor someone.
Many employers offer payroll giving. This is where you donate monthly to a charity of your choice and the money is deducted automatically from your gross salary, so before tax has been taken off. As a result you pay less tax.
Not all employers offer this, and even if they do there may be occasions when you are asked to sponsor someone or choose to make an additional charitable donation. Whether you are donating online or by sending a cheque or cash, if you complete a Gift Aid form the government will rebate the tax you have paid on the money and give it to the charity.
Given that basic rate tax is 20%, this means that every £10 you give is worth £12.50 to the charity. Basic rate tax is automatically paid to the charity. If you are a 40% or 50% taxpayer, the additional tax will be given to the charity once you have completed that year’s Self-Assessment form – it contains a section for donations to charity.
Saving your spare change (which you can then donate with a Gift Aid form, so the charity gets the tax) can be a good way to give to charity, and you can make sure children join in by putting change from their pocket money into the box, too.
On Mumsnet Talk threads, 'chuggers' get the thumbs down (unsurprisingly, you want to give to charities of your own choosing) and charity gifts instead of presents, especially at Christmas, get your goat, too.
"There definitely can be a 'holier than thou' attitude to buying charity gifts. It seems odd to me that you would show up, declare you've bought someone a charity gift, and leave with their carefully thought-out and saved-for gift. It's mean, frankly. And I'll choose what charity I give to, thanks." WanderingHolly
If you open a charity savings account with Charity Bank, your money will earn you interest but will only be lent to support charities and social enterprises across the UK. So, without having to give your money away, it will be doing good for others.
A 2011 study by the Philanthropic Review recommended that high street banks set up charity accounts that give tax breaks, so this way of giving may become more widespread. It also called on firms to make it easier for employees to donate via the payroll.
Giving in kind
If you can't give much money, you could give some time instead. There are huge numbers of different ways you can help charities, either on a regular basis, or with a one-off activity such as a sponsored walk, run or (gulp) parachute jump.
There are so many organised charity events that you don't have to do much except train, find sponsors and turn up on the day - with your proud children cheering you on. The Mumsnet Talk charities noticeboard has details of hundreds of good causes.
Disclaimer: Any content in our family money section is intended as general information only. For specific advice about your personal financial situation, get advice from qualified, independent, regulated professionals.