The true value of a charitable gift this holiday season

The run-up to the holidays is a natural time to reflect on our lives and the world around us. It’s also when many of us think about giving back to society by donating to charitable causes. But what is the value of an ad hoc donation – and is it the best way to help?

The role of charitable giving is well established. In the UK in 2016, 61 per cent1 of all Brits donated money to charity. A majority (51 per cent) of them chose to give on an ad hoc basis, with a quarter of them (25 per cent) giving money on a monthly basis.

And while November and December are unsurprisingly the months when most ad hoc money is given, as these months coincide with large national events like Children in Need and Movember, charitable giving is older than the Christmas story.

Global giving

The act of donating money to help good causes dates all the way back to 2500 BCE. At this time, the Ancient Hebrews started gathering funds from the wealthier members of society (albeit through a form of tax) in order to help the poor.

The Romans were also pioneers of charitable giving. In 25 BCE, Emperor Augustus reportedly gave public aid to around 200,000 of his countrymen2. Even in the UK, the earliest documented charity dates back over 1400 years3 - demonstrating that donating money to charity is far from a modern phenomenon.

Today, charitable giving takes place right across the globe. In fact, according to the 2017 Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index 2017, the top three countries for charitable giving in 2016 were: Myanmar, Indonesia and Kenya, respectively.

The rationale

People give to charity for a variety of reasons. Not only is it a way of supporting a good cause and giving back to society, research4 shows that donating money can also:

  • Make you feel good
  • Strengthen your personal values
  • Encourage your family and friends to get involved

Making a donation to charity is also a proactive way of easing short-term suffering for people – such as donating to a hurricane relief effort, for instance. And, contrary to popular belief, donations do make a difference; they are not entirely swallowed up by administration costs.

Philanthropy vs. charity

Nevertheless, if your motivation for giving is to make longer term, sustainable change to help eliminate social problems rather than just alleviate them, it may be worth considering philanthropy instead of, or as well as, charitable giving.

While this might seem like a question of semantics, there is an important distinction between philanthropy and charitable giving. Philanthropic giving has its greatest impact when the philanthropist is clear on the motivation behind the giving, has a clear focus on the social change to be created and has a plan with the right team of charitable partners, to make the change happen.

Of course, philanthropy and charitable giving are not mutually exclusive. What’s more, ‘giving’ isn’t just about money. Time and skills are equally valuable assets. The next time you think about giving as a means to help bring about social change, why not take a moment to consider how your gift can deliver most value both for the charity and for you.

At HSBC Private Bank, our Philanthropy team works with clients and their advisors. Whatever your motivations, with our support you can create a legacy that benefits the social causes that you care about the most, making a difference today and in the years to come. Contact your Relationship Manager to arrange a meeting to see how our Philanthropy team can help you.

1CAF UK Giving Report 2016
2A brief history of charitable giving, Winspire Me 2016
3Charity Law and Social Inclusion: An international study, Kerry O’Halloran 2007
4Five reasons to give to charity, Charities Aid Foundation 2017

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