People in the United Kingdom are generally regarded as being generous and philanthropic towards good causes but research has shown that the level of time and money which people are giving to charities and community groups has flat lined over the last few years. David Cameron unveiled the Giving White Paper (the “Paper”) on 23 May 2011 which sets out three core objectives intended to empower and encourage more people to get involved in charitable giving. The three objectives are to make it easier to give, to make it more compelling to give and to provide better support.

  1. Making it easier to give

Modern technology offers an opportunity to make giving and receiving more flexible, intuitive and convenient. The Paper suggests that giving can be encouraged by helping it to fit into everyday life, providing better quality and more accessible information and removing barriers to giving. The Paper highlights some ideas that should make giving easier, for example:-

  • ATM giving – Link has announced that UK banks, building societies and cash machine operators have unanimously agreed to work together to enable customers to donate by an on-screen option at an ATM.
  • Mobile giving – mobile phone companies have launched new methods of supporting giving, for example Vodafone UK and Just Giving are raising money by using text messages and Orange has launched a ‘volunteering app’ which enables users to sign up to help charities.
  • Philanthropy UK – the Government has committed over £700,000 to the Association of Charitable Foundations and the Community Foundation network to develop the Philanthropy UK service which offers free and impartial advice to aspiring philanthropists and connects wealthy people with charities which need their support.
  1. Making it more compelling to give

The Paper suggests that people who already give should be encouraged to give more and that those who do not give should be encouraged to do so. The Government believes there are three key elements to this which are to provide new incentives, to match funding and to support new social norms. Some examples include:-

  • Inheritance tax changes – there is to be a reduction in inheritance tax rates for those who leave 10% or more of their estate to charity.
  • Spice - £400,000 of funding from the Government and NESTA is to be used to trial ‘Spice’ in England which gives an opportunity to provide volunteers with a ‘thank you’ (e.g. voucher/discount with local businesses) for doing good things for the community.
  • Government leading by example – Ministers have pledged to undertake a One Day Challenge which is a voluntary commitment to give one day of their time over the course of a year to a charity or community group of their choice.
  1. Providing better support for providers of opportunities to give

The Paper suggests that improvements should be made to Gift Aid to allow charities to claim the relief online from 2012 onwards. There is also a proposal to provide £30 million of investment in a local infrastructure fund, delivered by the Big Lottery Fund, to improve support for organisations. The Paper also outlines the Government’s aspiration to open up government buildings to charities and voluntary groups.

The Government has pledged £40 million to support volunteering and social action over the next two years but the Paper also highlights the need for public investment. As a result, the Social Action Fund and Challenge Prizes will be launched, which will provide funding to schemes to expand giving in priority areas and groups. Challenge Prizes will give charities and social enterprises the opportunity to claim prizes with their own entries. Other entrants will be able to donate winnings to charities of their choice.

The Paper applies to the UK but, while some initiatives, including changes to the tax system, will apply to the whole of the UK, others will apply only to England.

Despite some of the content of the Paper appearing headline grabbing (such as the One Day Challenge), and some commentators suggesting this is an attempt by the Government to shift responsibility, the feedback from the sector seems to be positive. The Government is welcoming comments on the Paper before 1 July at giving@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk.