Make the most of your giving

Uncovered: 6 myths about charitable giving

Uncovering the reality
behind the giving myths

Making a decision on which charity to support can be difficult. Many wonder "Can I afford it?” or “Will my gift make a difference?” and how can I be sure my gift will even go to a charity?"

We've uncovered the reality behind some of the most popular myths about giving to charity.

Myth 1: We can't trust anyone who asks us for money, they're all bogus

Reality: It's easy to check if a charity is real: look for their charity registration number on any literature. You can use our charity search to check if the number is valid. If you're still unsure, you can also try the following:

  • Ask if the person collecting represents the charity itself or if they’re from a separate fundraising organisation. If they’re not from the charity, ask what proportion of the donation will actually reach the charity - and make a judgment as to whether you feel that it’s reasonable.
  • Look to see whether the collection box is sealed and if it bears the charity's name. It’s not legal to collect in ordinary buckets and other open containers.
  • Look to see if the collector has an official badge. Collectors must display identity permits. Don't be shy about checking IDs before parting with your money.
  • Only make cheques payable to the charity itself.
  • Don’t forget - we will only make donations from your CAF Charity Account to registered charitable organisations.

Myth 2: It's pointless giving to charity; most of your donation goes on administration costs

Reality: Most charities are well-run and work efficiently, but they do incur running costs like any other organisation. Charities need buildings and staff - most of whom deal with frontline operations - but this often gets mistaken for ‘admin’.

NCVO estimates that 85% of charities' expenditure goes on delivering their programmes of work.

Myth 3: Fundraising costs wipe out most of our donations before they even get to the charity

Reality: Fundraising and publicity costs are 8% of charities' total income [1]. For smaller charities, most fundraising is entirely voluntary. Over half of the entire charity sector spends just £2.3m in total on fundraising – and for every £1 spent on fundraising, a charity will make an average of £5 back [2].

Myth 4: There are far too many charities anyway – they're just wastefully duplicating what each other does. I'd give (more) if they merge

Reality: NCVO counts 170,000 across the UK and while there may be overlap, sometimes charities are local and specific to the groups who use them.

Myth 5: Most people aren't rich enough to give the sort of gift that would make a difference anyway

Reality: We know that the least well-off give more as a percentage of their income. Analysis shows that, on average, those earning under £32,000 give over 1% of their income to charity, while those on over £52,000 give just 0.8%.[3]

Small donations can make a big difference, particularly to small charities. It helps even more if donations are planned, or regular, so charities can be certain about their resources. You can use your CAF Charity Account to set up regular payments to your favourite charities.

Myth 6: Giving to charity won't make us any happier

Reality: Research suggests that giving time and money to good causes makes us feel happier [4].

What next?


1. How much does the voluntary sector spend on fundraising and publicity? from the UK Civil Society Almanac 2012
2. Ibid.
3. John Low calls for wealthiest to support a UK Giving Pledge, Nov 2011
4. CAF (2010) World Giving Index 2010