I’m on BBC Radio 4’s MoneyBox Live today (Weds 13th June, 3pm), answering questions from the public about charitable giving. Do call! (Here’s how.) I’ve suggested some questions you might like to ask – about which charities to back and how – and some boring topics to avoid.
Particularly interesting questions
– Charities make lots of claims about how good they are. How do we know if those claims are true?
– What are the best ways to give?
– Is it true that big funders waste lots of resources? [Yes] How can I / they avoid that?
– Can my company do anything charitable? What are the best things for a company to do? What are the best examples of corporate giving? [Answer: Goldman Sachs’ work on the IFFIm]
– I’ve got no money but I’d still like to help charities. Any ideas of what I can do? [Yes]
– Are Oxfam goats (etc.) a good way to help a charity? MoneySavingExpert says that often your money might not actually go to buying a goat. Does that matter?
– What do charities actually do with all their money?
– Why aren’t charities more open about what they do? [I don’t know: I’ve said before that they should have public AGMs, for example.]
– People often draw parallels between charities and business. But can’t it learn also from other disciplines? [Yes, lots]
– There seem to be lots of philanthropy advisors. How do I know the basis on which they advise? (Well, you know the basis Giving Evidence uses because it’s laid out in an entire book.)
Passably interesting questions
– How do I find a great charity? [Or] I’ve found a charity: how do I know if it’s any good?
– Charities spend too much on advertising.
– Why don’t charities tell you how much of your money goes to the actual cause?
– Why’s there no ranking of charities? [Or] What are the best charities in the UK?
– Why are there so many charities? Surely they should consolidate a bit?
– Why are so many charities based in London?
– Many charities have lots of money already. Should that affect whether I give to them? [Yes: but not always in the way you’d think.]
– Should I set up a foundation?
– Small charities are better than large ones: they’re more efficient.
Boring questions to avoid
– What are the most tax-efficient ways to give? [The answer to this Q is very detailed, depends on the context of your own finances, and anyway, the gains from giving tax-efficiently are tiny compared to the gains from choosing the best charities and giving in the best ways. Tax efficiency might gain you 60%, but choosing a great charity could easily gain you 200%, sometimes 2400% (yes really), and giving in the best ways gained Shell Foundation about 400%]
– Anything related to the recent charity tax fiasco. What was the gov’t thinking? [We don’t know.] How much would the change have cost charities? [We don’t know.] Which charities would have been hardest hit? [We don’t know.]
– What’s the difference between charity and philanthropy? [Nothing. Different people prefer different words, that’s all. Let’s focus on achieving stuff, not which words best describe that stuff.]
– Anything which relies on the assumption that giving in America is good, and/or that we should have more American-style giving here. Only if you want even lower social mobility and really haven’t notice that the UK and the US are very different places.