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Give a present with more meaning

ANYONE who braves the high street as December 25 draws closer could be forgiven for thinking there was nothing more to Christmas than excessive consumption.

Happily, there is evidence that suggests many of us think beyond eating, drinking, and buying gifts for our nearest and dearest.

More than 80% of Scots believe Christmas has become too materialistic, according to research from Scottish aid charity Sciaf as it launches its ethical Christmas Real Gifts aimed at helping people in developing countries.

A majority of Scots (51%) also believe we should focus on helping those less fortunate than ourselves at Christmas. If you are planning to be charitable this month, there are several ways to do it.

One easy way to help is to send charity Christmas cards, but first find out how much from the sale of each card will actually go to the charity - the Asda charity card, for instance, passes on less than 7%; many retailers will pass on 10%. Cards sold directly by charities usually pass on far more.

Donations of goods to charity shops are always welcome, as good quality clothes, books, toys and music are all expected to be in high demand over the next week or so. Buying goods through charity shops obviously helps their funds, but some gifts can help others rather than add to the pile of unwanted gifts in this country.

Through its Unwrapped concept, Oxfam allows you to buy everything from a goat to a well in countries where resources are hard to come by. Spokeswoman Lindsay Clydesdale said: "We try and encourage to gift donations as opposed to another piece of materialism."

Sciaf's Real Gifts include Essential Medicines (£50) and Shelter for a Family (£25). A similar concept is offered by Good Gifts. Through their website, your donation can fund items such as footballs for underprivileged children in the UK.

People who prefer to make a straightforward financial donation will find it easy enough to do so online. By signing up for Gift Aid, they can make their donation as tax-efficient as possible. Using Gift Aid, a charity takes your donation - money you have already paid tax on - and reclaims the basic tax rate on its gross equivalent, in other words the amount before tax was deducted. At the basic tax rate of 20%, it means £10 donated using Gift Aid is worth £12.50 to the cause.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) said only 39% of donors used gift aid in 2011-12, which it said meant charities were losing it. You can also sign up for Gift Aid when you donate goods to charity shops.

If you pay tax through PAYE (pay as you earn) and your employer operates a payroll giving scheme, you can make a regular donation before tax is deducted, meaning it costs you less. Organisations such as CAF offer charity accounts, which make it easier to manage gift aid and direct debits to charities.

Charities using online giving tools have seen such donations increase by 88% for the year to date, compared with the same period in 2012, according to research by Raising IT, a company which provides websites and social media tools for more than 100 charities.

Meanwhile, a study has found that people with the lowest incomes in the UK give the most to charity as a proportion of their income.

The research, by gift card company One4all, found people earning under £10,000 a year give 1.27% of their total income to charity on average - four times more than those earning £60,000 to £80,000, who give an average of 0.3% of their income to worthy causes.

However, the running of some of the country's biggest charities has come under scrutiny recently. A report earlier this year found the number of executives receiving six-figure salaries at Britain's 14 leading foreign aid charities was up from 19 to 30 over the past three years, at a time of falling donations. It noted a 12% rise to £184,000 for Sir Nick Young, chief executive of the British Red Cross, and the £163,000 salary of Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children.

Last week the BBC's Panorama revealed a £500,000 executive pay-off at Amnesty International (which the charity admitted was wrong), the failure by Comic Relief to disclose that its investments were not ethically screened, and claims by former Save the Children employees that partnerships with major companies such as Glaxo­SmithKlein and British Gas were compromising its campaigning.

Val Morgan at Sciaf (which has no chief executive and, like many charities, does screen its investments) said donors would expect charities to be totally transparent.

Contextual targeting label: 
Charity

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