Everyone knows Christmas is the season of giving.

    From co-workers to family, most of us will be searching out the perfect gifts for everyone on our list in the coming weeks.

    But Christmas is also a hugely popular time of year to give to charity. In fact, over half of UK households make a gift to charity during December.

    If you’ve got clients planning to give, you might be wondering how you can help them donate in the most effective way possible, and perhaps steer them away from charities that aren’t doing as much good as they could be.

    It may be that these charities are inefficient, or that they’re spending donor money unwisely.

    Equally, it could be that they are just not the best place to give valuable donations right now.

    With that in mind, here are a few questions you can encourage clients to ask of charities before making a donation:

    Are they trying to do it all?

    The world’s problems are so big that some charities try to address everything and end up spreading themselves too thin.

    Typically, the most impactful organisations choose one issue and a few proven tactics to address it and focus on that.

    Clients should ask themselves if the charity they’re considering can reasonably achieve what they’re claiming, given their size and resources.

    Who else is giving to them?

    Large foundations invest considerable effort into researching charities before they make grants to them.

    If a charity a client is considering is already funded by a major foundation, the chances are that charity has passed some benchmark of effectiveness and financial health. This makes them a fairly safe option for giving.

    Do their programmes make sense to you?

    It’s easy to be swayed by the smiling children and jubilant-looking adults in so many charities’ marketing materials.

    It's worth clients taking the time to go beyond the glossy photos to understand what the charity is actually trying to do.

    If they use lots of jargon and can’t clearly articulate how their programmes are affecting a chosen issue, consider giving that charity a pass this year.

    How do they communicate with supporters?

    Donors deserve to be kept up-to-date with how their pounds are being spent.

    High quality charities will send valued donors regular, accessible information on their work without over-burdening them.

    Clients should ask to see a copy of a supporter newsletter, or even speak with a member of their fundraising team. Charities should be happy to oblige.

    One question I encourage people not to ask is about a charity’s overhead or administrative expenses. (For more on why this isn’t a useful question, have a read of this Thoughtful Philianthropy article.)

    If you have clients who give over the holidays, it's definitely worth encouraging this practice. 

    Giving brings a sense of joy and fulfilment to the giver, and all of society benefits from a well-funded charitable sector.

    Yet by encouraging your clients to ask a few more questions before they donate this year, you can help them direct those valuable pounds to the charities doing the best possible work - both now and into the new year.

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