Charitable giving is something which the UK is particularly good at advertising and participating in. Recently, Comic Relief broke records yet again for the amount raised this year, with the Comic Relief total coming to a staggering £78,082,988 to date, and its increasingly popular sister organisation Sport Relief totalling £71,820,731. According to Zoe Amar, writing for The Guardian, the cause which the charity aids, combined with emotional anecdotal advertisement, is the predominant reason why people donate. Yet it is notable how the secondary factors of fun and how easy it is to get involved were almost equally as important as the charity itself, indicating that unless there are these other secondary factors, many people will not donate as much or as frequently. Even though there is evident enthusiasm for Comic Relief and charity events, there undoubtedly remains scepticism amongst many as to where their donation actually ends up being used. Whilst discussing the topic with course friends, doubts were expressed about such large publicity and charity events, with repeated concerns being raised. Where is my money going? Aren’t celebrities just doing this for publicity? Isn’t it better to support smaller charities?
The issue of where money is funnelled is particularly prevalent when discussing the difference between smaller and larger charities. When discussing support for charities, student Flo Hawking highlights a common opinion, stating that it would be great to support Mercy Corps in Edinburgh, for example, because it’s a local charity with broader global ambitions and in need of further support due to its smaller size. In conjunction with this, a look at how larger charities spend their donation income is indicative of the need for other expenses aside from charitable activity. The analysis of the breakdown of expenditure is possible due to the recent creation of website ‘Charity Choice’. Charity Choice has launched a free service allowing the user to generate reports for 10,000 UK charities. It is telling that when looking at how the costs break down, in the larger top 100 charities, which include big names such as Cancer Research and HSPCC, an average of 78p in every pound is spent on their charitable activities, with 21p being spent on raising more income. Only 1p was spent on running the charity, including staffing and office costs. This would imply that for the larger charities it is somewhat justifiable to be slightly sceptical about what they spend money on, as many who donate money expect the full 100% of their donation to go towards the charitable cause.
Yet conversely, this figure strongly implies that there is a genuine necessity to spend some of the large donation funds on income for permanent staff. It is unfair to stigmatise larger charities for the work they do and for their size; there is an increased necessity to pay permanent staff who work hard and long hours to ensure that the charitable activities are possible in the first place with these larger charities. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the larger percentage of donations (in this case, an average of 78p) do go towards the charitable cause; and only a meagre 1 pence goes towards the administration and office costs, dispelling the claim that larger charities spend more money on swanky offices and buildings for their organisation.
Instead of being sceptical, perhaps we should try and be more committed to a specific charity which means a lot to us personally, enabling a continual stream of donation as opposed to sporadic one-off donations. As a nation, we compare favourably to other European countries. As student Natacha Scott-Lazareff, originally from France, pointed out, in France they are far less open to the idea of donating in the first place. Hence whilst it is possible to view large, well-supported events such as Comic Relief as gimmicky and depriving other charities of income, it is better to view charitable giving in the UK as properly organised, well supported and a continual avenue for funding great causes, and something to be proud of as a member of the UK.
Photograph: The Intolerant Gourmand