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The best way to give to charity

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One-off donations | Regular giving | Other ways of giving

One-off donations

Want to donate but don’t want to make a commitment to regular giving? Then the best way for you to give to charity may be to make a one-off donation. There are several ways for you to do this:

Credit card

For many people donating via credit or debit card is the best way to give to charity
For many, the best way to give to charity is by credit or debit card. Image licence: CC BY-SA 3.0 NY

A quick and easy way to give a one-off donation is by credit card. You can make a donation like this online or over the phone. It’s quick and hassle free. However, keep in mind that processing credit card donations is expensive for charities thanks to a 2.5% processing fee (although the exact does vary depending on what card you’re using).

Debit card

Quick and easy, using your debit card to make a donation is also efficient - processing debit card donations is cheaper for charities, with only a 0.5% processing fee.

Worried about giving your details online? Check out our page on how to make sure you're giving safely to charity.


Gradually being phased out, a cheque is a written order that you send to a charity. It tells your bank to give the charity you’ve chosen a set amount of money.

It is worth noting that cheques can cause quite a lot of hassle for charities. The processing of them is very time-consuming and the length of time they take to clear means that the money is not immediately accessible to the charity. While small, there is also a risk that cheques can get lost in the post.


Dropping loose change into a tin at the checkout, or giving a fiver to a colleague fundraising for charity is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to give. It’s low-commitment, requires little thought, and you can give whatever you’ve got in your back pocket.

Stack of pound coins
It can be difficult to know where your cash will be going. Image licence: William Warby CC 2.0

But, while it may be quick and easy for you, it can be inconvenient for charities who then have to put a lot of time and money into processing your cash.

If you’re giving your change to a charity collector on the street, there is also a risk that your money may not actually be going to charity at all - not all charity collectors on the streets are legitimate. With this in mind, take a look at our top tips for giving cash to a charity collector:

  • If you come across a charity cash collector and you want to give, check to see if they are wearing a badge telling you that they have a legal license to collect and the charity number of the charity they are collecting on behalf of.
  • If you’re unsure, ask the individual about the charity and whether they have any information leaflets or other materials they can give to you. Most reputable collectors will be more than happy to give you more information.
  • If you’re very concerned about the legitimacy of the collector, than you should contact the police. They have a dedicated 'Action on Fraud' department that can help and is contactable on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Regular giving

Ready to make a longer-term commitment to your charity of choice? Then why not consider regular giving? There are several ways you can do this – from child sponsorship to payroll giving, you’re sure to find an option that fits with your goals.

Direct debit transactions

Increasingly the most popular means of giving to charity, direct debits allow you to donate regularly to your charity of choice. All you have to do is give the charity permission to take a specified amount from your account every month, quarter or year.

Regular direct debit transactions can be set up as part of a child sponsorship, or purely for making regular donations to your chosen charity. You can set up a direct debit online, over the phone or by filling in a paper form. Direct debits give you a lot of control and flexibility – you can specify exactly when the money comes out of your account i.e. at the beginning, end or middle of the month – and they’re very easy to cancel if your circumstances should change!

Giving in this way is quick, easy and efficient. Plus, once it’s set up, there’s very little you need to do. Plus, from the charity’s perspective, direct debits are extremely cost, and time effective.

Child sponsorships

Twin girls, Children's Village Louga, Senegal
A child sponsorship is an investment in a child's future
Child sponsorships are a great way of giving to charity. Think of taking out a sponsorship as an investment – an investment in a child’s future.

Child sponsors give a charity a long-term, reliable income, making it easier for them to plan for the future.

You can choose how often you make a donation – monthly, quarterly or even yearly. Donations can be made by credit or debit card, direct debit, standing order or bank transfer. However, it’s better for the charity if you set up your child sponsorship by direct debit or by using your credit or debit card.

Find out more about child sponsorship. 

Standing orders

A standing order is when you instruct your bank to pay the charity of your choice a set amount at a regular interval of your choosing – for example weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

You have full control over your giving – you can change or cancel your payment at any time and you don’t have to inform the charity. But, this does mean that charities have less certainty about their income. The cost of processing a standing order is also pretty high for a charity.

It’s also worth knowing that if you want to change the amount that comes out of your account or the date the payments are made on, you have to cancel the existing order and set up a new one. This can be very time-intensive.

Payroll giving

Also known as Give As You Earn, or workplace giving, payroll giving allows you to donate to charity straight from your gross salary (i.e. before tax).

Teenage girl CV Nagapattinam
Your money could change someone's life
Crucially, giving in this way costs you less. Payroll giving happens before tax meaning that for every £1 you donate, you’ll only pay 80p (60p if you’re in a higher tax bracket). It’s also quick and easy for you to set up, and you can even give to multiple charities. Plus, many employers choose to match your donation, meaning even more money goes to charity (check with your employer to see if they offer this). 

Charities don't have to claim the tax back on donations made via payroll giving as they do on donations made via direct debit (in the form of Gift Aid), for example. This saves the charity quite a lot of time and money. Another bonus of payroll giving is that it gives charities a stable and long-term source of income, helping them plan ahead effectively – it is money they can rely on. 

However, it's good to know that there is a delay between when the money comes out of your salary and when it reaches the charity – up to 8 weeks.

Other ways of giving

CAF donate

CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) quite simply manages donations. In many ways, it is similar to other third-party donation platforms such as JustGiving, Virgin Money Giving and BT MyDonate. You set up a CAF bank account separate from your everyday accounts and all the money in the account is for charitable giving only.

CAF donate offers plenty of flexibility and you can donate on the web, via mobile and even on Facebook. You know that all the money in your CAF account goes to charity – you don’t have to worry about setting aside some from your monthly budget. Plus, all major payment methods are accepted, so whether you have a MasterCard or use American Express, you’re all set.

This giving option allows you to share information about your chosen cause with your friends and family, helping generate even more support and interest in the charity that’s important to you.

But, it is worth keeping in mind that donating via CAF costs charities a considerable amount of time in terms of administration. Plus, the charity cannot claim Gift Aid on any donation you make using CAF - that's an extra 25p for every £1 donated that they're missing out on. 

Legacy giving

You can choose to leave a monetary gift to a charity, or charities, in your will. This is known as legacy giving and is ideal if you want to keep supporting a charity close to your heart, even after your death. Legacy giving is flexible – the amount you donate can be as small or as large as you like.

For smaller charities in particular, legacy gifts form a major income stream and are gratefully recieved. 

Online fundraising platforms

You’ve probably come across online fundraising platforms at some point. These are sites that allow individuals to fundraise online. In many ways they are an upgrade of the humble sponsorship form with one big difference – the money comes in straight away. You set up a profile detailing the charity (or charities) that you are fundraising for and the challenge/ event that you are participating in, share your page on social media and send a link to all your friends. Some platforms we recommend are:

Online giving image

  • JustGiving - Arguably the best known of the fundraising platforms, JustGiving has over 11,000 charities signed up. These charities pay £15 a month for the privilege. It takes 5% commission from your donation and automatically claims Gift Aid. So, for example, if you give £10 using a debit card, £11.70 will be given directly to the charity.
  • Virgin Money Giving - One of the largest fundraising platforms, VMG is the charitable arm of Virgin Money. This platform takes 2% commission from your donation and automatically claims Gift Aid on your donation. So, for example, if you give £10 using a debit card, £12.15 will be given directly to the charity.
  • BT MyDonate - set up by BT and funded by 1% of their profits, this platform is able to waive the usual card-processing fees. BT MyDonate takes no commission from your donation and also automatically claims Gift Aid on your donation. This means that if you give £10 using a debit card, £12.35 goes to the charity. 

And finally....ticking the Gift Aid box 

If you're a UK tax-payer, simply ticking the Gift Aid box on a donation form adds an extra 25% to the value of your donation. That means that for every £1 you give, the charity can claim an extra 25p. What's not to love!