Most middle-class people are in the fortunate position of having some disposable income, but we’re also laden with liberal guilt and a social conscience. Not being super-rich, we can’t finance a minor public school scholarship or an entire wing of the National Gallery. And, anyway, paying to have something named after you is ostentatious and very un-MC. But we can afford to do more than buy raffle tickets or throw a few pence into the pot at M&S Simply Food when buying a bottle of wine and sandwich. And this leaves the dilemma of how much to give, and to which charity.
The options are more numerous than you might realise. You could give to:
A high profile international aid charity, eg. Oxfam
Be prepared to face your friends’ nit-picking: “You know they probably spend 85% of that on UK admin” (to which I’m always tempted to reply “No, I’m so stupid I hadn’t worked out that a secretary in the home counties costs more than a goat in Zimbabwe”.)
A medical charity
Cancer and children’s hospices are very de rigueur. But you’ll find yourself secretly wondering why your tax isn’t paying for this.
A local charity
After all, it’s the philanthropic equivalent of getting your veg from the local organic shop and you might well know people who’ve been helped by said charity, whether that’s your grandmother or your neighbour’s dog.
A political charity eg. Amnesty
You can make a statement but do it sotto voce without resorting to giving to a political party, and after all who doesn’t want Chinese prisoners of conscience freed?
An environmental charity
Well, you have contributed to the destruction of the planet, if not through your last city break (I took the train to Bruges, thank you very much) then through your insistence on only using Madagascan vanilla pods.
No matter which you choose, there are two cardinal rules. First, never give to chuggers. Middle-class embarrassment might lead you to sign up to a monthly direct debit sponsorship of an orang-utan, but you’re just encouraging them. Second, always Gift Aid your donation, which means charities can reclaim tax on donations, thus increasing their value. Nice one, Gordon Brown.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if you give to your local donkey sanctuary or to an organisation building wells in Sudan. You’re not going to solve everyone’s problems, so just push past that middle-class insecurity and do as much as you can.