12 ways to help charities this Christmas

Christmas isn't just about festivities - charity has historically been an important part of Christmas, with churches leaving alms boxes for poorer parishioners on Boxing Day. This was also the day the wealthier classes let their staff home to see their families with a gift box of food.

Christmas isn't just about festivities - charity has historically been an important part of Christmas, with churches leaving alms boxes for poorer parishioners on Boxing Day. This was also the day the wealthier classes let their staff home to see their families with a gift box of food.

Today we may not have these traditions, but Christmas is still an important time for charities. Here the Charities Aid Foundation shares its tips for making your donations go further and offers some ideas of other ways you can help out.

Tick the Gift Aid box

If you pay tax in the UK, you can add gift aid every time you make a donation to charity. For every £1 you donate, the charity is able to reclaim an additional 28p from HM Revenue and Customs. Higher rate taxpayers are able to claim the difference between the basic and the higher rate on your donation when you fill in your annual tax return. The CAF reckons that around £750 million of gift aid is unclaimed each year.

Give as you earn

This is a tax efficient way of donating to charity straight from your salary. Under this scheme, donations are taken from your pre-tax salary and benefits from full income tax relief meaning a £10 donation will only cost basic rate taxpayers £8, higher rate taxpayers £6 and 50 per cent taxpayers £5.

Many employers will also match your contribution meaning your £8 contribution could earn your charity £20. If your employer doesn't already offer this scheme it's worth raising it with your HR manager.

Download a charity app to your phone

A number of charities have launched apps for iphones and ipads. National Trust has launched one to help you find your nearest National Trust properties and Water Aid will help you find the nearest public toilets and highlights their sanitation work abroad.

The charity Depaul UK hit the headlines this year with its iHobo app - it allows you to care for a virtual homeless person, thereby highlighting the issues young homeless people face every day.

Open a CAF account

A charity account is essentially a bank account that you can use to make donations to the charities of your choice. All the money held within the account receives gift aid automatically and you can use it to make charitable donations via a charity cheque book, charity card or online through the CAF website.

Cheques can be used to sponsor friends and family taking part in sponsored events, or to put a collection in the church plate. You can fund the account with a one-off £100 or a £10 (or more) monthly direct debit. Alternatively you can fund the account through Give As You Earn. Visit cafonline.org/charityccount for more info.

Buy gifts from charity shops

Gone are the days of shoddy bric-a-brac and second hand videos, there are now plenty of good charity shops selling designer clothes and quality second hand books. Oxfam shops also sell quality fair trade gifts. To find one in your area go to the Association of Charity Shops website - charityshops.org.uk

Donate unwanted gifts to charity shops

Rather than relegating unwanted gifts to the cupboard under the stairs, donate them to a charity shop. Gift Aid can now be claimed by charity shops, so if the item is valuable ensure that they are aware that you are a UK taxpayer. They should take your details and contact you to confirm this once the item is sold.

Buy charity gifts

If you have no idea what to buy the person who has everything, try giving a charity gift. You don't have to buy a goat or a chicken for an African community, you can now buy fertiliser packs, donate to a library or build a classroom. Find a range of gifts for a range of causes at goodgifts.org.

Find a new insurance deal and help charity

You can save money and help a charity at the same time. Donatedsomeback.com allows you to search for a number of providers for home, car and personal insurance and upon choosing, your new policy will donate up to £25 to the charity of your choice.

We would of course urge you to do a comprehensive review to make sure you get the right cover for you, but if you make a handsome saving there's nothing to stop you donating that money to your favourite good cause.

Save money and help charity

Charity Bank offers savings for people who want their money to make a difference. Interest rates aren't particularly competitive (0.5 per cent on balances up to £24,999 with a 12 month notice period or 0.3 per cent for 30 days). However your money is used to offer affordable loans to charities, social enterprises, voluntary or other organisations.


You can help others enjoy Christmas by donating your time over the Christmas period. This might be helping in a homeless shelter, sending cards to the Armed Forces or going on a volunteer break. Alternatively you can make a new year's resolution to start volunteering regularly. To find a post go to timebank.org.uk or do-it.org.uk.

Buy music

iTunes doesn't have to be your first port of call for buying music. Fairsharemusic.com sells new releases for 79p and donates 50 per cent of all profits to charity. You can even buy music as gifts for others and Fairsharemusic will send it on to the recipient via email.

Take a keep-fit resolution

If you need some motivation to get fit this year and agree to do a sponsored run for charity. The ballot for the London Marathon has now closed but the website Crunch offers places to those who are willing to raise at least £1,200 for partner charities. Go to crunch.org.uk/marathon.php for more information.

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