Ten tips for informed charity giving

05 April 2012

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has advised those who give money to charities during Lent to make informed choices about the causes that they support, particularly this week as collections are returned to charities.

Lent is a time when many people are inclined to give money or time to charities. The Commission wants to help the public make informed choices about such donations, and be confident in the charities that they support.

Frances McCandless, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, recommends that people think before they give:

"Many people focus on those less fortunate than themselves and support charities during the Lenten period, showing admirable generosity in doing so. In is clear that many charities are aware of this and often ramp up fundraising efforts during Lent"The Commission's safer giving advice benefits both charities and members of the public by assisting givers in making informed and thoughtful choices about donations. I would encourage people to think before they give and remember the ten tips".

The ten tips for informed charity giving are as follows:

  1. Check the list of deemed charities on the Charity Commission website. Not all charities will be on the list as it is not yet a legal requirement to register with us. The list does show which organisations have registered with HM Revenue and Customs for tax purposes and are therefore subject to the Commission's powers.
  2. To donate online to a particular charity, look for that charity's website. Check that you have the right web address.
  3. Be very careful when responding to emails or clicking links on emails. Always check that emails are genuine by looking out for spelling mistakes or other signs that the email is not genuine. If you have any concerns about the legitimacy of a request for donations that appears to come from a charity, don't hesitate to contact that charity directly.
  4. Check whether a collector has the authority to collect. A permit or licence is usually required if raising money in a public place. These permits are obtained through the PSNI at present.
  5. Ask the collector how much of your donation goes to the charity. There's no fixed rule about what percentage should be given to charity, but our advice is for people to ask what proportion of gross profit goes to the charity. This allows you to make an informed choice before you give.
  6. Ask the collector for more information about what donations will be used for. A genuine charity will understand that you may wish to know more and should be happy to answer questions.
  7. Check that the collection tin is sealed and that it is not damaged.
  8. If in doubt send your donation directly to the charity.
  9. It is always good practice for charities to tell you how much your money has been used after you have given through via emails, newsletter or other communications.
  10. If have a concern about a charity, you can contact the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and raise a confidential concern about the operation of that charity.

Notes to editors

  1. The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the new independent regulator established under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.

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