Our Top Tips for Philanthropy

Here are some ideas to help you gain more satisfaction from your philanthropy and confidence that the causes you have selected are impactful.

Engage your brain, as well as your heart

You are unlikely to give away hard earned savings unless your heart is touched by a cause. But your experience will be much deeper if you can also satisfy yourself that the organisation is really effective. Most people struggle to do this, due to lack of time and experience. As a result they often rely on prejudices. We want the most effective charities to attract a bigger share of donations, rather than those with the biggest fund raising budgets.

Don’t compare overheads

It’s perfectly understandable to be worried about efficiency but comparing overheads between charities is often a misleading way of evaluating this. Charities can save money by cutting corners but in the longer run that will reduce impact. Evidence produced by Caroline Fiennes based on US charities indicates that there is actually a POSITIVE correlation between admin costs and effectiveness. Focus on the ability of the management team, then trust them to spend wisely.

Look at who else is supporting

In the UK we are fortunate to have many highly professional grant making charities. They are inundated with requests for funding, so they are able to pick and choose the best. Use our search tools to find the most supported charities. If you are asked to support a charity that has failed to attract any funding from these organisations, just ask: Why?

Early intervention pays dividends

In the long run it’s cheaper and more effective to build a fence at the top of a cliff than provide an ambulance when people fall over. Re-election priorities often discourage politicians from funding programmes that do not produce results before the next poll but that provides an opportunity for charities to take the long term approach by intervening early.

Look for Matched Giving opportunities

Matched giving happens when someone else promises to top up your donation so the value of your donation is increased. The leading platform for matching in the UK is The Big Give. The UK Government also encourages matched giving through its UK Aid Match service. However, don’t let this sway you into backing a charity that doesn’t meet your criteria – the availability of matched giving does not mean that the charity is highly effective.

Donations go further in the developing world

For example in Africa:

  • Less than 50p can provide a deworming treatment that will massively reduce the risk of a debilitating illness.
  • Less than £50 can restore sight to a blind person
  • Less than £4,000 can save a life by providing mosquito nets, as well as improving life prospects for many others.
High profile disaster appeals rarely offer the best value

Tragic though these are, in the overall scale of human deprivation disasters are relatively minor. Every day, on average, more than 15,000 children aged under 5 die and most of these deaths are preventable. If you ARE tempted to support disaster appeals then first check out fts.unocha.org to see which are most in need of funding.

Where’s the evidence about impact?

It’s an appalling indictment of the Third Sector that few charities can tell you objectively what impact they are achieving. Not only does that make your donation feel less useful, it also makes it near impossible to manage the organisation. Ask for an Impact Report. If it doesn’t exist, be aware that they can’t know if they are being as effective as possible!

Impact report
Don’t place restrictions

It’s tempting to want all of your donation to reach the front line and maximise its impact but that would mean no funds are available to pay for vital overheads that ensure quality control and good governance. Trust the management to spend your money wisely – don’t try to second-guess them.

Check out the finances

You don’t want to make a donation to a charity that ceases to exist shortly afterwards. The historical accounts can paint an interesting picture (especially for charities with annual income greater than £500,000 which must disclose more information). What’s the trend of income? Does it exceed spending consistently? Are the sources of income predictable?

Financial data
Other Articles
Education News Selection
Overcrowded Prisons

The UK has the highest proportion of the population incarcerated than any other country in Western Europe. Moreover, overcrowding in prisons means that the scope…more

How do Giving is Great Ratings work?

Our unique algorithm analyses the digital data available on each charity in order to identify areas of strength as well as those that require further…more

Environmental charities really can make a difference

It's easy to become disillusioned at the scale of the environmental crisis that we are facing and the seeming reluctance of governments to coordinate responses.…more

How much of my donation actually goes to charity?

If you are considering what charity you should donate to, this is probably the question you want to ask, but the answer should not drive…more

What are the tax benefits of donating to charity?

Donations to charity are tax deductible in most cases, so it's important to make full use of them. Most people have heard of Gift Aid.…more

Carbon Offsets alone are not enough

Every day, more people and organisations demonstrate their recognition of the climate crisis by committing to become 'Carbon Neutral'. The first and most important part…more

Which areas of philanthropy are most effective?

The text of this post is taken from an article on the Effective Altruism forum. It suggests that you can achieve the most impact by…more

Running out of time to save our planet

Although the latest IPCC report has a few encouraging data points, you can't get away from the overwhelming likelihood that, barring a miracle or an…more

What is the Disasters Emergency Committee?

The Disasters Emergency Committee ("DEC") is a registered UK charity that acts as an umbrella fund raising organisation for 15 large charities. It was originally…more

EQ Foundation is Money Marketing Charity Champion

We were delighted to win this award and the accompanying comments: "The judges were impressed by this submission for Charity Champion of the Year from…more

Effective charities and their impact

The best charities can be more than 100 times more effective than others so it pays to be selective. Giving is Great can help you…more

A Guide to Charity Volunteering

Helping others fulfils a deep need in our souls and usually results in a feeling of connection and self worth. There are tens of thousands…more

Tythe’s Climate Action Charity Portfolio

The G7 summit in Cornwall has helped to remind us that averting catastrophic climate change is a massive challenge, requiring concerted efforts by all of…more

Pros and Cons of Matched Giving

Double your donation is generally how the message goes. If you give £10 to a certain charity another party will add the same amount. Sounds…more

Making charitable bequests in Wills

Many people make bequests to charities in Wills, partly because it can be highly tax efficient but to make best use of these incentives there…more

What is Effective Altruism?

In this article we explain the basics of Effective Altruism, which seeks to combine the instincts of our hearts to support charitable causes with hard…more

How to become a Philanthropist

In this Blog we outline a strategy to help people who are new to philanthropy and for those who feel dissatisfied with the impact they…more

How to Select Charities

There are thousands of highly effective charities in the UK and so we've tried to make the Giving is Great search engine efficient for finding…more

Why we created Giving is Great

In 2018 I became increasingly frustrated that most of the organisations that we were supporting had been referred through contacts. I decided to try and…more

Giving is Great