I’m on BBC Radio 4’s MoneyBox Live today, 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.