5 top myths about philanthropy

Cancer Research UK

We know that the global appetite for philanthropic giving is growing. But for someone thinking about giving a gift to charity, there are often a lot of questions. With the help of some of Cancer Research UK’s philanthropy managers, Samantha Gharial tackles the common misconceptions around charitable giving.

1. My gift won’t make a difference to such a big charity

At Cancer Research UK, more than 9 out of 10 donations we receive are for less than £10, proving that small amounts really do make a big difference. Somehow, over the years, the word ‘philanthropy’ has become tied with wealth and status – but size shouldn’t matter. It’s what you do with your resources that really counts.

Being a large organisation, we can select and fund the very best research and commit to funding large, impactful projects over many years, which smaller charities perhaps can’t afford to do. And if you do want to see the specific impact of your gift, it’s possible to restrict your donation to a certain area of cancer research. You could also consider pooling money as part of a syndicate or joining a ‘giving club’, such as our Catalyst Club, to make your gift go further.

2. Cancer Research UK gets loads of money from the Government

Actually, Cancer Research UK receives almost no Government funding to support its research. As an independent funder of cancer research, most of our income comes from donations, trading and income from our charitable activities (which is predominantly royalty income from pharmaceutical patents). Around a third of our income is from a single source: legacies.

In 2018/19, for every pound of income from donations, investments and royalties, 82p was available to beat cancer – which is impressive in terms of fundraising efficiency. For those who think this figure could still be higher, watch the interesting Ted Talk by Dan Pallotta, an American entrepreneur, author and humanitarian activist, who boldly challenges the way not-for-profit organisations are rewarded for how little they spend, rather than what they achieve.

3. Rich people only give to charity for tax breaks

In fact, according to numerous studies by Beth Breeze, the director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, tax is absolutely not a principal driver for philanthropic giving among wealthy people in the UK. However, tax relief does help by making a gift go a lot further and signalling that philanthropy is supported and encouraged by the Government. For UK taxpayers, Gift Aid means that charities can increase the value of a donation by claiming back the tax: if you don’t pay tax, it costs £1 to donate £1, whereas a basic-rate tax payer need only pay 80p for the charity to end up with £1, and a donation of the same size costs a higher rate tax payer just 60p. Businesses can also set up a Payroll Giving scheme, where employees can donate directly from their salary before tax is deducted.

4. As soon as I express an interest, the fundraisers won’t leave me alone!

Thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this is impossible. But even before GDPR came into effect, in April 2017 Cancer Research UK became an ‘opt-in’ charity, which means that we ask all supporters to give us permission to contact them about making a donation or signing up to fundraising events. If they choose not to opt in, they won’t receive any marketing or fundraising requests from us.

Our fundraisers work with supporters over time to find an area of cancer research that resonates most with their interests. They build the relationship slowly, help them find the right way to give and allow them to choose the level of engagement they want to receive. Many supporters are keen to hear about the impact of their gift and meet other supporters, while others aren’t. Everyone is unique and experiences their own supporter journey with Cancer Research UK.

5. Money is the only way to give

Your time, energy and talents have tremendous value and can have the same impact as a financial gift. For example, you could open up your network by hosting a private event to raise awareness and encourage others to give. Or you could volunteer your time and skills, such as marketing or IT. Katherine Coates, Partner at international law firm Clifford Chance, has done all of the above. In the 10 years she has supported our work, she has sat on one of our philanthropy boards, hosted networking events and co-founded the Clifford Chance supporters’ syndicate, as well as donating personal gifts. “I like to be actively involved, so not just giving money but time and expertise too,” Katherine explains. “I became more active after my nephew sadly died from pancreatic cancer aged just 22. We felt completely helpless. Supporting the charity has given me an opportunity to overcome that feeling.”

If you’re looking to start a philanthropic journey with Cancer Research UK, please contact nicola.lightfoot@cancer.org.uk

Samantha Gharial is Philanthropy & Partnerships Copywriter at Cancer Research UK