We define philanthropy as the giving of resources in an engaged and strategic way for maximum impact and in a tax efficient manner. It can include the giving of money, assets, time, talent, voice and one’s social capital. We believe in the power of philanthropy as a great social connector and the source of many great opportunities.

City Philanthropy

A Wealth of Opportunity

Be a philanthropist for no money

Sep 19th 2012

Good news! You don’t have to be Bill Gates with $37 billion to be a philanthropist. In fact, you don’t need any money at all to support great charitable work.

How to conjure money for charity from thin air

You’re a sociable person, I can tell. Starfish helps HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa, and is supported by a lot of young-ish South African professionals living in Britain. They decided that rather than meeting their friends in restaurants, they’d host dinner parties at home and asked each guest to donate the money they would have spent if the party had been in a restaurant. Starfish raised a lot of money that way – and none of it had been earmarked for charity.

You can generate money for charity while you’re finding the restaurants – or pretty much anything else. The search engine EveryClick makes a charitable donation for every search made. For online shoppers, various portals make donations for each purchase: www.easyfundraising.org.uk and www.TheGivingMachine.co.uk generate donations for purchases from retailers including John Lewis, Mothercare, Apple, Wallis, Fat Face, Dell and LateRooms.

Stepping up a notch, Fred Mulder is a London-based home-owner who was in a dispute with his neighbours in London over access to some land that he owned. There was every chance that he and they would all hire expensive lawyers to resolve it. Instead, Fred offered to give his neighbours perpetual access if they each (Fred included) donated £25,000 towards education in Zambia. This move generated over £100,000 for charitable work – none of which had previously been designated for charity. And furthermore, it’s improved his relationship with the neighbours – which a legal fight would never have done – because they have a shared endeavour. It’s clever, and you may well be able to think of similar ideas in your own situation.

All things bright and beautiful

We all know about taking old clothes to charity shops, but you can donate almost anything. These are some of my favourite quirky examples:

Cars: Several organisations will collect an unwanted car and turn it into money for charity through www.giveacar.co.uk.

Hotel shampoo: I know some business people who travel constantly and give the complimentary toiletries from hotels to a domestic violence refuge. For people on the run from a violent partner, it’s nice if somebody’s provided some decent shampoo.

Padded and/or large envelopes: In a sign of the austere times, your local library may welcome these, for shipping books and CDs between branches.

Your hair! If you have more than seven inches of hair cut off, take it home and donate it to make wigs for people who’ve lost hair due to medical treatments. www.littleprincesses.org.uk/donate/hair.aspx

But smart donors check with the charity first. People sometimes donate real junk to charities, so much so that aid agencies run an annual competition for Stuff We Don’t Want (#SWEDOW). Past winners have included second-hand knickers(!), and the 2.4 million Pop-Tarts® airdropped onto Afghanistan by the US government in 2002. Far from amusing tales, these items create costs for charities because they need storing and sorting, and simply become a hindrance. It’s not difficult to check that a charity needs an item before sending it.

If you do have a spare $37billion, stay tuned because we’ll advice for people giving a lot is coming up soon.


Caroline Fiennes is the director of Giving Evidence, and author of It Ain't What You Give, It's The Way That You Give It, a guide to effective charitable donations which launches later this month. Buy it discounted from www.giving-evidence.com/book

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