EQ Chief Executive & philanthropist, John Spiers, gives his top 5 tips for giving to charity this Christmas

With more than 180,000 charities in the UK to choose from, how should you decide which charity to give to?

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail   by John Spiers, 1st December 2018

Christmas is known to be a time for giving. Data gathered from theBigGive.org.uk, shows that the British public donate up to five times more during the festive period than they do at other times of the year. Giving at Christmas is a long standing tradition but with newer giving campaigns like #GivingTuesday and Christmas Jumper Day, making a donation is likely to be at the forefront of people’s minds across the country over the next few weeks.

Through his own family foundation and the EQ Foundation, EQ CEO John Spiers has been responsible for giving over £5 million to charity since 2008.

“When I first started taking a closer interest in supporting charities, I assumed that it would be pretty similar to finding good investments. By carrying out research I would soon be able to identify those doing the best job. How wrong I was!”

“Selecting good charities is one of the toughest tasks that I’ve encountered. But if that sounds rather negative, don’t be put off. Helping others is THE most rewarding activity available to us and I recommend it heartily, particularly at Christmas time when many of us fall victim to “consumption overload”.”

John explains his top 5 tips for giving to charity this Christmas:

1) Decide what you really want to achieve

Take time to consider which issues or causes mean something to you that you would like to support. Often they are things which have affected you or someone close to you or that you feel passionately about.  However, it’s always helpful to take a step back and consider where you can make the most impact and analyse which charities are best place to deliver on the issue you care about.

Whilst they’re a bit US-centric, sites like givewell.org and givingwhatyoucan.org are helpful to start thinking through these issues.

2) Do some due diligence

It’s worth doing a little bit of sense checking before you make a gift. It makes sense to do more due diligence the larger the sums of money you are giving. However, I’d always recommend having a look at the charity’s website and try and answer these three questions:

  • Does this charity programme work? See how they articulate their impact, some charities often use a ‘Theory of Change’ to explain this – search for it or contact the charity to ask for a copy
  • Is the organisation well run? The world is full of great ideas; executing them well is where most fall down – look at their executives and board.
  • Is there a plan to develop a reliable source of funding? Charities will often publish this in their strategy and/or will provide an overview of where their funding comes from.

3) Avoid the charity myths

Some misconceptions about charity giving which I always try and challenge:

  • Worrying about overheads. We all want want to support organisations that are run efficiently but a simple measure of admin costs as a proportion of total spending will not tell you anything useful. It’s worth watching Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk for more information as to why this can be a false economy.
  • Spreading donations reduces risk. If you are building an investment portfolio you will be advised to diversify widely to reduce specific risks. However, you can minimise costs for charities by keeping your support focused and may gain more access to an organisation if you make a larger donation.
  • History is strewn with tales of well meaning but ill-informed altruists who thought that they knew best but try and tackle problems without enough knowledge or experience. One of the best innovations in charitable giving is givedirectly.org which does exactly what it says on the tin and empowers poor people to decide how to use your donation.

4) Seek out the best charities

This is a tricky one! My best advice on this would be to piggyback on advice of experts who have invested time and resource in searching out the best charities.

For local charities, you might like to find out from your local Community Foundation. Internationally, which organisations are being supported by the likes of The Gates Foundation or DFID? Another approach is to look at recent winners of awards such as those granted by Third Sector, Charity Times, or the Centre for Social Justice.

5) Maximise your giving

One of my favourite mechanisms of giving is matched giving, the concept being  that one donor commits an amount of money, conditional on others providing a similar amount. 

It is used with great effect in a campaign I support called the Christmas Challenge run by theBigGive.org.uk where all donations made between 27th November and 4th December are doubled.

EQ will once again be providing its support as a ‘Charity Champion’ to six charities working on social mobility which you can view here.


Download a copy of EQ’s new ‘Giving is Great’ handbook. 

Search the EQ Library

View articles by topic: