New research has shown that the cancellation rate for direct debits in March 2020 was 41% higher than March 2019 (2.19%) and new donor numbers also falling sharply. This is a recipe for disaster for charities. Even the larger charities are not immune to the fallout of the pandemic. Cancer Research UK has announced that they’ve had to cut their research funding by £44 million, which they say will set back the cancer research effort within the UK for many years. When you consider that 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime, this is something that affects us all. There has never been a better time to give to charity. 

But what is the best way to support a charity?

The short answer is any way that you can, but if you want to get into the detail, the best way to support a charity is by donating what you can regularly.

Last year the Charity Aid Foundation reported that the number of people giving on a regular basis was down for the third year running. This is a worrying trend for charities because regular giving provides a steady, reliable income stream, which allows them to plan for the future.

Many charities that fund medical research rely solely on donations from the public so that they can enable the best scientists to find ways to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure diseases. Funding medical research is expensive. I had no idea how expensive until I started working at the British Heart Foundation. The process of creating new medicine takes on average, 12-15 years. The estimated costs of doing so vary, but the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry thinks it is in the region of £1.15bn per drug. After learning this, I will never begrudge paying for a prescription again. 

Without regular gifts, charities are unable to plan for the future.

The good news is that setting up a regular gift with a charity of your choice is easy. If you visit their website, you’ll see an option to set up a monthly donation online or over the phone.

If your employer offers Payroll Giving, this is the best way to give a regular gift to charity. It is the most tax-efficient way to give as you automatically receive tax relief on it. In a nutshell, this means that it costs you less, but the charity gets more. Another bonus is that charities don’t have to claim Gift Aid, so there is less admin for them to do. Like a direct debit, you still have complete control over your donation and can cancel anytime.

If you prefer a closer relationship with the charity that you’re are supporting, you may wish to consider adoption or sponsorship, which is simply another form of regular giving. Charities like WWF allow you to adopt an animal from £3 per month and makes a great gift for those that are difficult to buy for. I sponsor a little boy in Malawi with Plan Internal. When you sponsor a child, you get to send letters and drawings to each other, which I enjoy so much, despite not being able to draw very well!

Playing a charity lottery or subscribing to a charity service or product are also popular ways of giving regularly: 

Get lucky with a charity lottery.

Many charities have a lottery. If you play the BHF’s weekly Flutter for £1 per week you’ll be in with a chance of winning £1,000. Just google to your favourite charity and ‘lottery’ to see what they offer.

Subscribe to something meaningful.

Shelter box has a book club, and Water Aid offers a sustainable monthly period parcel called Fempowered and Scope’s Mindful Monsters offer monthly activity cards for children that promote concentration, creativity, relaxation, and positivity.

There are of course other ways that you can support charities. But here are two ways that you may not be aware of that don’t even cost you a penny:

Shop with Amazon Smile

When you shop with Amazon Smile, the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to a charity of your choice.

Donate your unused loyalty points

In the UK, there is £7bn worth of unused points on loyalty cards. For Good Causes helps people donate their unwanted rewards to charity.

If you need any further convincing according to The Happiness Project, people who give to charity end up wealthier than those who don’t give to charity. 

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