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Monday, 14 February, 2000, 12:12 GMT
Do we give enough to charity?




UK Chancellor Gordon Brown wants to instil a "new civic patriotism" in Brits, by encouraging people to give more money and time to charity.

The chancellor also aims to simplify the guidelines for charitable donations from companies, who currently give only a fifth of what is donated in the United States.

Do you think British people are too stingy with their charity donations, or are we a truly philanthropic nation? Send us your views.


Your Reaction

I have a very simple test for people and organisations soliciting me for a contribution: demonstrate to me, through an independently audited statement, that you spend less than 10% of your revenue on overhead, and I will willingly contribute. You would be amazed how many are never heard from again. But I also believe that government should clearly define acceptable "overhead" and "operational" costs.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Charity? With taxes as high as they are, it's amazing anyone can feed themselves, let alone having money to give away.
Chris, USA



I would rather run the risk of being conned, than to run the risk of ignoring the plight of someone in need
Graham Follett, UK
I give to charity, but not as much as I could afford. I find I can always find excuses to spend money in other ways. I note remarks from others about some charities not being well run. Can that really be an excuse not to give to a need? I think not. And what about those that beg for charity. Should we ignore them? I think not. I heard a 'Thought for the day' many years ago by, I think, Richard Harries, who said about giving money to homeless beggars on the streets, that he always gave, on the principle: I would rather run the risk of being conned, than to run the risk of ignoring the plight of someone in need.' I now live by that, and go out of my way to give to beggars. So what if I'm being taken for a ride. I couldn't live with my conscience if I walked by on the other side. If what the Chancellor proposes goes even a small way towards creating that mind-set in the population of this country, then it is to be applauded.
Graham Follett, UK

Yes we should give more to charity, and anything we give to charity should be tax deductable. The ultimate aim should be to replace the state with charity, friendly societies, mutual soceities, voluntary groups and of course private businesses.
Alex Stanway, England

I would appreciate it if the other Americans who decry our miserly habits would "name their source" on this information. The America I live in is generous in many ways. We constantly donate money to tornado and hurricane victims. We send rescue teams out to earthquake victims. We give much of what we earn to charities and causes.
Ashley Carrier, USA

I believe that everything in this world belongs to my Creator. Therefore I own nothing and that includes money. I have temporary custody of it for at the most 70 odd years. I do the best I can with what comes my way, and I try to give us much away as I can. At the moment in my life I am fit and able to work - one day I won't be. My beliefs have led me to take my final vows as a Third Order Franciscan. Giving as much away as I can works for me. Maybe it would for you.
Anthony, UK

No, I don't think we are. After all isn't that what the national lottery was set up to encourage. Isn't it time they put the money to better use, i.e. not giving to some of the wacky charities that they currently give to. It would be a good idea to add to the bottom of the lottery ticket boxes for the major charities like the WWF, cancer research etc. and if you have a particular charity that you want to donate to, then proportionally the amount of boxes ticked should represent the amount of money given. If it looks like one charity is always higher than others, then a sliding scale is used so that the money gets distributed more evenly.
William Crawley, England



A problem I have with the British notion of charity is a suspicion that many charities aren't that well run, and possibly even highly inefficient
JD, UK
A problem I have with the British notion of charity is a suspicion that many charities aren't that well run, and possibly even highly inefficient. How much of the money actually reaches good causes as opposed to simply employing people to sit at desks? Nobody knows. In addition, it is far too easy to become a charity in the UK and the whole process is - in my view - often abused.
JD, UK

People need to stop manufacturing and profiting from scarcity (which comes from imperfect distribution). If companies treated their employees more equitably on the whole, they'd have a more happier, productive workforce - which means a happier consumers, who don't need to feel guilty they're supporting an exploitative industry. This is particularly true of the larger multinationals, which profit enormously from third world labour but stubbornly refuse to improve their working and living conditions.
Edward, Canada



'Charity' is a tool selfish people use to relieve their own guilt at not wanting to pay a responsible level of tax.
Richard, UK
I regularly give to charity via postal appeals, but I really get annoyed by the number of mailshots I get as a result, and the number of people standing in the high street collecting. Every week some one else is after my money. Perhaps the National Lottery should be made to give most of their takings to every registered charity every week. That way, everyone should be happier?
Phil W, UK

I am involved with the largest student charity organisation and we've seen a recent downward trend in collections. People are more sceptical about charities because of fraud. It's all a matter of trust and sadly the 21st century world may not be one that trusts. I hope I'm wrong.
James, UK

We are very stingy people here in America. We are trapped by our jobs. We are trapped by basic life. We need to give more to the needy and help them get jobs so they can support themselves.
Robert Jones, United States



I think we are a very charitable nation as things stand, and that many things which should be provided by the state are instead provided through donations by the public
Stu, UK
I think we are a very charitable nation as things stand, and that many things which should be provided by the state are instead provided through donations by the public: vital hospital equipment, books and computers for schools, housing projects for the homeless, lifeboats etc.. The list is endless. If the politicians want us to give even more, then they should consider cutting the already penal rates of tax we have to endure!
Stu, UK

The Giving of charity is a personal matter. No one has the right to tell me to give more or even to know how much I give. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Government.
Mark Cleminson, Canada

Mikko from Finland: Less culture and civilisation leads to more giving? Huh? Use charities to "raise our tails? People like you should seriously considering just breaking down and coming to the realisation that there are lots and lots of good, caring, charitable Americans who would give the shirt off their backs to help those in need. Yes, there is such a thing as a good person who is an American.
David Reiff, USA

To those people who are pining for higher taxes, is your desire for mass confiscation by force borne out of concern for the poor or envy of the successful? If it's the former then perhaps you would care to ponder this: high taxes increase poverty by depressing the economy and strangling investment and wealth-creation. The only reason that Britain is, generally speaking, more prosperous of late is because taxation (while still monstrously high) is marginally less punitive than it was in the 70's. So, if you're calling for more taxes I can only assume that your goal is not to alleviate poverty but to entrench and increase it.
David J.K. Carr, England



How dare you Gordon Brown for telling us how to spend our money
Richard, UK
I believe that as a capitalist country the individual should have the freedom to make as much money as he/she pleases. How dare you Gordon Brown for telling us how to spend our money. You and your socialist friends tax everybody into oblivion for projects like the Millennium Dome, more bureaucracy, and for parties at No.10 Downing St. Why don't YOU give your money to charity?
Richard, UK

I think that more charity is always a good idea, but I agree with Emerson and think that it would help more if we change our attitude. Giving money is nice, but it's more important and efficient to take personal action and not rely on others to do the demanding part. Anyone can give money, but those who actually care will go farther than that.
Eldon, USA

Charity is a good cause to help the less fortunate. It is only concern for one another that humanity can be saved. A kind word is a charity, moral concern is a charity, and material aid is a charity. The Brits are known for being stingy. Open your closed palms for you to get more and pay.
Sadiq, Ohio, USA

The issue is not about giving money, the issue for us as citizens of families, communities, societies is about what human commitment we are prepared to make to change what we believe to be injustice. I am sick of the obsession with money in the fight for justice, money is concrete but it is not what fosters real change- only a human commitment can do that.
Patrick Daniels, Guatemala



We do not give enough to charity. And, the reason for that is that mankind is basically very greedy.
Dave Adams, USA
We do not give enough to charity. And, the reason for that is that mankind is basically very greedy. People who have a lot always want a lot more. And, despite the glowing economic propaganda we hear coming out of Washington about the state of the world economy, - there are too many people who are filing bankruptcy petitions, losing their jobs, and seeing their income shrink. It is an 'outrage' that we hear so much wrong information. But, as to the situation of 'charity' - we are NOT giving enough. And, there are more and more people all over the world who are in dire need of help. Poverty knows no geographic limitations.
Dave Adams, USA

I am disgusted that a so called "Labour" Government with the biggest majority in recent history should turn the clock back to the hungry thirties and make us depend on voluntary organisations and charities to perform those duties and services that the State owes to its citizens. With this betrayal of the Socialist principles of Bevan and Attlee by the Blairites we may as well vote for the real Tories who at least behave as one would expect of them.
Steve Foley, England

Coming from a third world country and visited city slums, I feel a growing need to give to charity. Maybe, we all should see the world as it is and we will know we can give better. M. Teresa once said 'you cling in your hands to your graves only what you have given away'.
Philipos, Switzerland



Charities exist simply for the desperate and the needy. The fortunate, fit and healthy would do well to remember this.
Simon, UK
The Biblical guideline of one tenth of your (net) income for charity is observed by Orthodox Jews, and many Christians. Religious Muslims also give a fixed percentage of their incomes to charitable causes. Once you view a certain proportion of your income as not being for you but for others, it isn't that hard to part with it.
David Olesker, Israel

When the economy is good charitable giving increases, when the economy is bad it decreases. It will also increase and decrease according to how the public feels about the government welfare system.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA



We have become a nation of inward looking, selfish people. If we can we should do more for those who are in need.
Michael White, UK
We have become a nation of inward looking, selfish people. If we can we should do more for those who are in need. We may complain about the amount of tax we pay or that we have to wait for a hospital bed or that we should not have to give to charities. But the fact is that there are millions of people on this earth who have nothing. If we can help we should.
Michael White, UK

I find it difficult with some charities to give them money when they clearly have too much. I received a mail shot from one charity or other last week with a free pen in it. If they have enough money to give freebies away, they have enough money. With regards to the Chancellors statement, I do think it would do the country some good if people got involved with charities more. It's not just about giving money.
Paul Johnson, England

The British people are a very charitable people and this is recognised throughout the world. Their generosity never ceases to amaze me - long may it continue.
Ibrahim Giga, UK

I am disabled and living on a very low income. I get very annoyed by charity telethons fronted by hugely rich celebrities. They say things like 'just giving a £5 would really help these people'. Well a £5 is just under a tenth of my weekly income. Much more money would be raised if the celebrities donated a tenth of their vast incomes? And, despite my handicap, no charity has ever offered me a penny - I wonder where it all goes?
Simon Megmere, UK



You tell me why I should be bullied into giving more away by a Government who are taking more of it away for themselves as it is?
Sarah,
I support a few charities but ignore people rattling tins and refuse to feel guilty about it. I sponsored a child in India for a while, as well as WWF and Shelter but I just couldn't afford it after the mortgage kept going up (when my salary didn't). All my bills have increased in the past year, to the stage where my disposable income is less than it was 5 years ago, despite £2500 more in salary! You tell me why I should be bullied into giving more away by a Government who are taking more of it away for themselves as it is?
Sarah,

I am quite happy to give to charity collectors who take the trouble to knock on my door, indeed, I keep a jar of loose change for that very purpose. What gets on my nerves are the collectors who sit outside my local supermarket, rattling tins and touting for money in a most aggressive way. If the Government really feels the need to do something about charities then perhaps it could start by making this sort of harassment illegal.
Paula Lonquere, UK

England is pretty much the most Utopian country in the world at the moment. Injustice only goes as far as minor middle class social politics. We should get a grip on reality and do something. In short, no, I don't think we give enough to charity.
Daniel, UK

The British giving enough? I don't know, but if you're anything like folks in the USA, who give astonishingly little or nothing at all, an increase in charitable giving is warranted. In Silicon valley here, there are more millionaires per capita than anywhere West of say, the French Riviera, but there is a new attitude, the "I've made my riches, what's your problem" attitude, where the poor are shunned quite openly. This new attitude has only got worse since the successes encountered on the stock markets, so give more, and give often.
Steve Kenney, USA

I think we should be able to make contributions to charities, and it's written off our tax bills. Then we could choose which noble causes we wish to support, rather than relying on incompetent government to waste it.
Steve, UK

First off, any government that taxes its people as much as this one should have plenty in the pot to help the needy of this country. Secondly as a Muslim, giving to charity is considered second only to prayer as a form of worship, and the point of giving is purely to seek the pleasure of God. I don't mind giving to good causes at all, and neither do my friends, but I get really annoyed when the government mugs me of my earnings and then suggests people should donate more. For this reason I tend to donate to overseas causes closer to my heart.
Saeed, UK

We should aim to reduce the burden of taxation and encourage people to give voluntarily. This way less is lost in the State machinery, and the irritation caused by taxes is also reduced. People that would leave all redistribution to the State are just avoiding their responsibility. I think Gordon Brown shows great insight with this policy.
Matt, Sweden



Not a week seems to go by without another sweeping, sanctimonious pronouncement from Mr. Blair's Nanny State. A few weeks ago it was the English are a violent bunch of thugs, now you don't give enough to charity. How do you British stand this?! When I was living in the UK last year I was struck by just how generous the British are with charity and not just for UK causes. Everytime there is a natural disaster the British pour out sympathy, aid and personal donations. Every High Street is thronged by volunteers seeking (and getting) donations. But of course it's not enough for the "take every pound and pence" Labourites. The question is: how can anyone living in the UK have a penny left over for charity (or anything else) once you pay those horrific taxes. One would think they would solve every social ill in the land.
Peter Kohler, USA



I think most people just give to charity to make themselves feel better, not because they really care about the charity. I don't give to charity because I don't care about people in need. As long as I'm alright, then that's okay, and I think other people should admit that to themselves.
James Richardson, UK



What people need to feel is a compassion for those who the charity is for, and thus the right amount is given.
Selena, Hong Kong
If we give too much we do not have enough to live, but if we give too little, we are 'stingy.' It's a regular pattern in life. If, you clearly don't give enough to charity, you will feel guilt - like you've done something wrong, and people give money because of that guilt. What people need to feel is a compassion for those who the charity is for, and thus the right amount is given.
Selena, Hong Kong

After taxation, VAT, National Insurance etc. the government then has the cheek to tell us we should be more generous to charities? It's plain insulting
Roger, UK

We have decided to set up a charity group at work because we are in a position to help others who are in need. Fortunate people should just stop and realise how lucky they are and think of others who are desperate for help. It gives such great satisfaction to be able to do something worthwhile. Everyone should try it!
Kath, United Kingdom

After having lived abroad I'd say we're a very generous people, and maybe foolish in trusting a lot of the charities to do their job.
Iain, UK



Most people will walk round you rather than giving a few pence.
Keith Lomax, UK
If you want to know what most people think about giving to charity spend an hour or two with a collecting tin in a draughty shopping street on a Saturday morning. Most people will walk round you rather than giving a few pence.
Keith Lomax, UK

I think charities also have a darker side, like famous people using them as their clubs or creating more fame for themselves, the organisations misusing the money by consuming it within the organisation and giving only fraction to the intended cause. Somewhat similar to developing aid that goes largely wasted in the receiving countries unless strictly controlled by the donors.
The USA has more charities because there is less culture and civilisation and people therefore use charities to raise their tails. Keep it as it is in UK.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

What will the government think of next - perhaps they will register the NHS and Education, and benefit agencies as charities and then they needn't worry about supporting any of the population......
And NO before anyone suggests it I am not a hospitalised student living on benefits!!!
Erica Hooks, UK

The government it continuously increasing taxes in every form possible, we are being made to pay for education and health, and there is talk of motorway tolls.
In such a situation I find it very hard to understand how we are expected to make larger donations than we already do. How dare anyone call us stingy. I think we are very generous considering the circumstances.
Ayesha, UK

I think £1 given to Charity does a lot more good than £1 taken in tax. Also is there a correlation between an increase in the total tax burden and the decrease in charitable giving?
Paul, UK

Why don't people stop wasting money on the lottery which is basically a voluntary tax with a distant carrot let's face it, and give it to charity instead.
JG, UK

Indirectly taxed to the hilt, overcharged for everything and existing in a climate of minimum wage rises...where do we get the money from?
Gerry, Scotland

Comments such as "we can hardly afford to live as it is!" worry me. I think the number of people in this country who can hardly afford to live is very small. It seems to me that what some people mean (and I'm not saying everyone. I know there are some people in real financial difficulties) by comments like this is that they can hardly afford to run a 2nd car, or can hardly afford a nice new TV. Let's face it, we are generally a wealthy country. We should be contributing more towards helping those that are in trouble.
Tristan O'Dwyer, England



Isn't it the responsibility of the state to look after the poor, the sick the vulnerable and the underprivileged?
Joe Crawford, Scotland
Why do we pay Tax? Why do we have a Welfare State? Isn't it the responsibility of the state to look after the poor, the sick the vulnerable and the underprivileged? If the State can't afford this then it must review its tax policy. Charities are, at present, mainly funded by the sector of society which falls under the poorest 60% of the population.
We should not have to rely on charitable donations and Lottery money to alleviate the problems caused in the main by a grossly unequal distribution of wealth in this country. The subject of charitable donations to third world countries which pay enormous interest rates to our banks is ludicrous. Charity means that the poorer members of society financially prop up a system which promotes opportunities for the rich to get richer through an unfair taxation policy.
Joe Crawford, Scotland



I think it is about time that the charity business was brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
PP, England
How many people give money to charities simply because somebody is shaking a tin in front of their face? Not even aware what the charity is, or where the money goes. Do we give to the most deserving? Or the ones with the more aggressive marketing campaign?
I think it is about time that the charity business was brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Having a single collection method, which would then allow you a choice of causes - one that you yourself can identify with. Would this not make people happier to give? Could this not also include a scheme where people can give directly from their salaries - and therefore avoid paying tax on that part of the income?
PP, England

I blame the Lottery - the ultimate tax for the brain-dead. People may feel they are doing for charities by buying tickets, but in reality they have no choice to whom the money goes. The choice is being taken from the hands of the people, abolish the National Lottery and donations to charity are bound to increase.
Jaye, "United" Kingdom



I cannot give to everyone who knocks on doors or posts an envelope through my door.
Jenni, UK
I try to give 10% of my net income to charities whose aims and structures I have vetted. I therefore object to being hassled by street collectors as I go about my business and made to feel bad if I do not give. I cannot give to everyone who knocks on doors or posts an envelope through my door. I would have to re-direct my existing, covenanted donations, perhaps to a charity who pays its chairman exorbitant expenses or invests in areas I disapprove.
It's my money, I worked for it and it's up to me to decide how much goes to whom. This is just another tax by the backdoor - increase charity donations and relieve the State of some of its financial burden to care for the disadvantaged.
Jenni, UK

I don't have a problem with the government giving more the money collected from taxes to charities like Shelter or Cancer Research and less to useless projects like the Dome. As for theatres, let the minority who go to them pay for them.
Miland Joshi, UK

We are probably the most ripped-off country in Europe, in terms of taxation & prices...and the chancellor wants us to give away more of what little we're left with!!? He's got to be taking the proverbial!
The people of the USA have better wages and far cheaper prices. Maybe if we had the same conditions here, we may be more generous. The hard cold truth is that most of us cannot afford to.
Simon, UK

Anything that cuts red tape, and makes the processes simpler is a good thing.
Rob, UK

Before I decide to do this, could we have a detailed breakdown of what MP's and ministers have donated over the past 12 months? Be interesting to see if dear old Gordon puts his money where his mouth is...
Janet, UK

I thought the reason that we paid taxes was to help those less fortunate than ourselves and to ensure a minimum level of care for everyone. I would rather see my taxes going towards helping the poor than being spent on white elephants such as the Millennium Dome, rather than giving to charities.
Grainne Phillips, Northern Ireland



If you want to improve the lives of people in need, then pay more tax and see to it that the job's done properly.
Chris Seary, UK
So I can give more to charity in order to feel better about myself. Regardless of the fact that only the state can really make a sustainable difference to any needs that charities represent? If you want to improve the lives of people in need, then pay more tax and see to it that the job's done properly.
To quote Isabel Allende 'charity is something you do for yourself, it's not powerful enough to overcome injustice'. Let's also face the fact that people are only going to contribute to charities that they feel are worthy. For instance, a charity that collects to provide shelters for cute little puppy dogs will get greater contributions than another charity for the mentally ill. Why can't people forget all this nonsense and accept the fact that they only approve of charity in order to feel better about paying lower taxes?
Chris Seary, UK

Utter New Labour tosh. Who cares what the Chancellor says about charitable donations. It is like being told by Scrooge that we don't care enough.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland



I think that we as a country don't do enough for charity, people always try to avoid charity collectors rattling their tins in the street.
Vickki Bradfield, UK
I think that we as a country don't do enough for charity, people always try to avoid charity collectors rattling their tins in the street. (Just watch them!) Most people can never be bothered to fill up a bag with unwanted clothes for charity shops, even when they will collect from your home¿ in fact most people would rather throw clothes away.
And the worse offenders are Camelot, why not donate more lottery money to needy charities, instead of the ballet and theatres? And don't even get me started on the Dome.. £750 million could have built quite a few hospitals. I, myself donate money to 4 charities each month by direct debit, and give change to the homeless, I don't have a lot of money, but there are always people worse off than yourself and I think we need to start realising that.
Vickki Bradfield, UK

This is a government ploy to let them shirk their responsibilities. Too much of our taxation is frittered away on an over generous welfare state and poor administration. Resolve these, and the worthy causes - especially those relating to people and health - could be funded within existing taxation levels. This drive for "civic patriotism" is nothing more than yet another New Labour stealth tax.
Vernon Bigg, UK

Although I think the relying on charity paves the way for a general slackness on the part of the government, I do believe that a civilised society looks after itself as a whole. I see more and more a Thatcherite selfishness; "I'm fine and that's all that matters" and "I'm doing well, why can't that person?".
Wendy, UK

Maybe the directors and managers of the charities should be more generous with their money, rather than pocketing vast sums and claiming company cars. I'm sure if the larger charities told people just where their money was going, they would think twice before donating.
Chris Mellish, England

You live in a dream world, no one wants to give money to charity when we can hardly afford to live as it is. You've got so much money in the government and you waste it on rubbish like the dome.
Bernadette Bishop, UK

Yes, I believe as individuals we should give a greater proportion of our growing wealth to charity. Anything else is short term and selfish.
Ian Lang, UK

With what we pay in income tax, and the constant supposed improvement and growth of our economy, why should we have to depend on charities at all?
David, UK

Well, you know what they say? "Actions speak louder than words!" Can anybody lend me a fiver?
Jean-Marc Watson, UK



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See also:
09 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Brown predicts £1bn charity boost
06 Apr 99 |  UK
Chancellor backs charities' Kosovo appeal
20 Jul 99 |  UK
Charities warn of continuing donor crisis

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