Nell Wilson - March 14th , 2023

How to choose the best charity to donate to

It is estimated that there are well over 412,396 charities in the UK. It can therefore be incredibly overwhelming to decide on the best charity to donate to. So how do you choose?

Making change without loose change

It is estimated that there are well over 412,396 charities in the UK. It can therefore be incredibly overwhelming to decide on the best charity to donate to. Instead of feeling good about supporting a worthy cause you can feel discouraged by the sheer number of charities all jostling for position.

To make things easier, it is a good idea to ask questions about how you want to donate, such as: how much do I know about this charity? Do I wish to support a big national charity or a local one? Am I influenced by my beliefs, or by my personal experience? For example, you may have lost a family member due to cancer or have a friend who has learning difficulties. Starting with a question breaks down the process and allows you to focus on what really matters.

Do your research

A great way to help you choose the best charity to donate to is to do some research. An excellent BBC article on this topic recommends asking these questions:

  • 1. Does the charity have a clear strategy? 
  • 2. Is there any evidence of the impact that the charity has had upon individual lives or communities?
  • 3. What skills do the management team possess?

It is important to assess the quantity and quality of information about a charity before donating. First you will want to consider how a charity is going to achieve its goals. For example, if the goal is to fight poverty, will it be focusing on a specific geographical area? What material provisions will there be for vulnerable people? Will there be food and shelter? What about mental health information? Coaching on employment skills? And who will be providing the help? 

Secondly, what evidence is there already that the charity has actually helped people? Are there case studies available? Quotes from individuals? Or statistics from a trusted source showing the quantifiable benefits that donations have made?

Thirdly, it is a good idea to check out exactly who is running the charity. To start with, all registered charities in the UK are registered with one of three regulators that provide this information, such as the Charity Register; these also provide useful information about the aims of the organisation and their financial reporting. You can also look on the charities’ website to see who the board of trustees and senior team are, and what experience they have in the field.

National vs local?

Big national charities, such as the British Heart Foundation, can be good to donate to because they often have a greater reach. Their resources tend to be bigger and better, often because they’ve been around for longer. This means their business structure is sometimes more stable. 

It is also worth considering donating to a national charity if the cause is medical-related. The British Heart Foundation is a case in point: because these national charities have a big donation base they can afford to fund expensive research and medical equipment.

On the other hand, a local charity might be best to donate to because their work focuses on smaller, under the radar causes and locations. This is important when we consider that wealth is ‘unevenly spread across Great Britain’ with the least wealthy area of the UK being North East England. Local charities, such as Citizens Advice Northumberland, provide support directly to people living in these areas.

Local charities can also be more effective in making a difference at the heart of their communities as they usually have fewer expensive overheads and rely greatly on volunteers.

As they have much smaller budgets, it’s sometimes difficult for them to fundraise and promote their great need for donations. That’s why giving money to these smaller causes is so appreciated, and hence why in this article we want to champion a handful of the thousands of small charities in the UK with big worthy causes.

Choose a cause that matters to you

Ultimately, you should donate to the causes closest to your heart. Your personal interests, the principles and ideals that you want to fight for, and your beliefs on how to make this world a better place are going to be what should guide your choice. This is important because you are more likely to feel a true connection to the charity and consequently find purpose in your donation so that it can become a fulfilling part of your life.

To help you on your giving journey, here are some of the most popular causes people donate to, and some examples of great charities to donate to for each cause, most of which are small local charities that you might have not heard of before.

Here are some great small charities to donate to…:

… If you want to support women

According to UN Women, globally an ‘estimated 736 million women – almost one in three – have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life.’

If you are looking to support women who are victims of this, a good charity to donate to might be Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre. It is a charity that is ‘there for women and girls across Cambridgeshire who have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse.’

Women’s Health Matters ‘champions freedom for disadvantaged women and girls to give them a chance at a better life.’ The charity ‘supports around 750 women each year in and around Leeds’ on a variety of issues, including domestic violence.

If you want to help with different issues, there are many more small charities with worthy causes such as addressing inequality or lack of opportunities. For example, Smart Works Leeds supports vulnerable women back into employment; Sister System, a London-based charity, helps young girls who have gone through the care system; and Freedom4Girls collects and distribute period products, run education workshops and campaign to end period poverty in the UK, Kenya and Uganda.

… If you are environmentally conscious

According to the Charities Aid Foundation, the top causes that people gave to in 2022 were animal welfare, children and young people, and medical research. But there are also some amazing environmental charities that do important community work. 

EMERGE 3Rs is an example of an excellent charity to donate to. Serving the Greater Manchester area, as well as Cheshire and Derbyshire, it has the dual purpose of ‘reducing waste and increasing employability’. Last year EMERGE 3Rs ‘redistributed 2.16 million kilos of food which served over 5 million meals and saved 3416 tons of embedded carbon emissions.

Similarly, Clean Cornwall supports thousands of volunteers to collect tons of rubbish each year whilst also conducting research and campaigning to reduce waste at its source.

… If you want to end poverty

Looking at statistics, the UK has ‘a very high level of income inequality compared to other developed countries’. ‘Wealth in Great Britain is even more unequally divided than income. In 2020, the ONS calculated that the richest 10% of households hold 43% of all wealth. The poorest 50%, by contrast, own just 9%’. Not only this, but Isabella McRae and Hannah Westwater point out in The Big Issue that ‘the pandemic shone a light on rising inequality in the UK. Now, as the country experiences a cost of living crisis, the scale of inequality is set to worsen and many families will face destitution in the coming months’. 

Roundabout Limited is South Yorkshire’s ‘youth housing charity providing shelter, support and life skills to young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Supporting over 300 young people every day, they provide key services delivering comprehensive programmes of training, involvement and empowerment which help to break the cycle of homelessness. Meanwhile, in East Sussex, Warming up the Homeless ‘provides hot meals, clothing and support to 1000 men, women and children a week’.

According to Zest Leeds, an astonishing 1 in 5 people in Leeds live in a deprived area. Zest is an independent charity offering support to people living in these areas. Similarly, Zarach delivers beds and basics to children living in poverty in Leeds; Chapeltown Community Nursery supports local families by providing daycare facilities and development activities; and Money Buddies helps people facing financial stress, worries and issues during these difficult times.

… If you care about health

According to Cancer Research UK, ‘every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer’ and ‘breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancers accounted for over half (53%) of all new cancer cases in the UK in 2016-2018. Three cancer-related charities which you might want to donate to are Cancer Support Yorkshire which offers practical and emotional support to help local people live with, and beyond a cancer diagnosis; Lymphoma Action, the UK’s ‘only charity dedicated to lymphoma, the most common cancer in 15-24-years olds and the UK’s fifth most common cancer’; and Candlelighters Trust, a 40 year old charity that has ‘brought light and hope to families affected by childhood cancer’ and invests in research ‘to improve the outcomes and lives of children with cancer’.

Which brings us to children’s health, and some other great causes you could support:

There is Cerebra, a charity that works closely with children affected by a brain condition. According to the charity, there are around ‘half a million children and young people living with a brain condition’ int he UK.

And there is The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, which ‘supports children (and adults) who are born with a heart problem’. The charity provides life-saving medical equipment as well as emotional support.

And if Mental Health is your interest, some small charities that would deeply appreciate your help are Battle Scars, a ‘100% survivor-led and run charity providing support to anybody affected by self-harm’, and Chrysalis Prevention of Men’s Suicide, which reaches out to men who are in despair and aims to ‘break the stigma of men’s mental health by having open conversations and raising awareness’. This is important when we consider that men are more likely to self-medicate (abusing alcohol and drugs) and not seek help for their problems.

… If you are an animal lover 

There are many important charities for people, but what about animals? Together for Animals is ‘a collection of 4 charities working together to end the suffering of pets and working animals.’ It is a national charity that does ‘vital work to save thousands of animals from disease, neglect and abuse.’ 

Many big national charities have local branches that are charities in their own right. For example, RSPCA Leeds, Wakefield & District Branch ‘offers a safe haven for cats, dogs and rabbits that have been neglected, abandoned or abused.’ And RSPCA Halifax, Huddersfield & Bradford  ‘take in hundreds of unwanted or mistreated animals every year and give them a better life through rehabilitation, treatment, training & care’.

Still can’t choose just one? 

If after reading all this you still struggle to choose just one or a handful of charities to donate to, Givto might be the answer. It’s a service run by volunteers that enables you to pick from 3 different charities each month and donate with a single Direct Debit, so you end up helping 12 different causes each year, all chosen by you!