This Christmas, more than a quarter of Scots will spread some festive joy by giving to charity. But how do they know if their donations will make a difference?

The Turn2us No Cold Homes Campaign recently revealed that 28 per cent of Scots will give away some of their earnings this Christmas, compared to a national average of 24 per cent. Meanwhile, the Charities Aid Foundation found that 65 per cent of the Scottish population have made donations in the past year, with the figure at 62 per cent south of the border.

Yet charities have faced staunch criticism for their fundraising methods in 2015, with calls for a clampdown on aggressive marketing and so-called "chugging" (charity fundraising) in the street.

Now a row has broken out between the third sector and its latest critic, Gina Miller, as to whether the public are being misled about charitable spending.

Mrs Miller, outspoken founder of the True and Fair campaign, claimed in a report last weekend that one in five charities are spending less than half of their income on charitable activities.

Using annual reports of Britain's biggest charities, Mrs Miller concluded that big names like the British Heart Foundation and Sue Ryder Foundation channel under 50 per cent of donations directly towards good causes when the figure should be more like 65 per cent.

However, both charities said the figures distorted charity spending, as they did not take other sources of income, such as trading through charity shops, into account.

Fullfact, a factchecking organisation and itself a charity, said: "Looking at the ratio of charitable spending to total income doesn’t tell you much about how well-run charities are, or how effective they are at achieving their charitable goals. That’s because charities sometimes have to spend money to make money - for example, paying rent for a charity shop."

Mrs Miller defended the report by saying that the Charity Commission, the regulator for charities in England and Wales, used the same methodology to calculate the effectiveness of charities on its own website.

The Scottish Government ordered its own review into the third sector this summer following the dramatic near-collapse of Kiltwalk, a charity which organises fundraising walks for other children's charities, and its subsequent rescue by Sir Tom Hunter's charitable foundation.

The Ayrshire philanthropist has vowed to put all future donations towards eradicating child poverty in Scotland after it emerged that the charity was spending £780,000 on running costs, as opposed to £776,000 on good causes.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations concluded that levels of trust in fundraising "have been dropping", as its own survey found that 45 per cent of people have come across "bad practice" in the charity sector over the past three years.

It added: "Contributors to this review acknowledged that the public, and in many cases fundraisers, charity CEOs and trustees themselves, are simply not happy with some of the techniques used to raise money.

"These include street-based or house-to-house direct debit sign-up, telephone requests to give or increase giving, and the attempt by charities to sign up donors who are already known to be giving through the swapping of donor address lists."

SCVO also called for more transparency over the handling of complaints and a more rigorous self- regulation system north of the border so the public can have "a simple and clear route to information about the running of charities".

Glasgow-based charity SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, declares on its website that it spends 90p in every donated £1 on "overseas work, emergencies, campaigning and educating". It is encouraging shoppers to buy one of its 'real gifts' this Christmas, providing livestock, basic transportation, medicine, water, education and other benefits for impoverished families. Prices range from £10 for school books to £1125 for a whole classroom.

Oxfam is also running a half price sale on its 'Unwrapped' charity gifts until Monday, promising it will receive 100 per cent of the gift price by making up the other half through 'partner' donations.

Lendwithcare is urging the public to put money towards gift vouchers that fund entrepreneurs in poorer countries, saying that £1.5 billion will otherwise be "wasted" on unwanted presents when it could be making a difference.

The microloan site says the average Scot will be spend £22.43 on gifts that will gather dust and is calling on shoppers to lend this amount to worthy recipients in the third world. The charity says 100 per cent of a voucher's sum will be lent and once it is repaid, it can be recycled into further loans to benefit more businesses and families.

If you do find yourself with an unwanted present this Christmas, you can upload it onto online marketplace and choose to donate any proceeds from the sale to charity through JustGiving.

Last minute shoppers can also do their bit this week by using Care2Save. Products bought through the charity-owned website from a range of high street names, from John Lewis to ASOS, allow 100 per cent of the commission on all sales to go to charity – 80 per cent to your chosen cause and 20 per cent to "support palliative care globally".


An Edinburgh-based fair trade shop has moved to bigger premises just in time for Christmas, having raised £20,000 through a mixture of donations and crowdfunding.

The One World Shop, now based in Nicolson Square, offers a wide range of ethically-sourced products, which can also be bought online, but it also provides cash and carry services for local businesses and runs fair trade education schemes in schools.

Manager Rachel Farey said: "The funding we have received in just six months shows that we have a big ethical community that will put its money where its values are."

Ms Farey said the shop is overseen by an independent voluntary board. "All our accounts are published on our website so customers can check what we're spending. I personally have visited groups in places like Thailand and India to ensure the people we buy from get a fair price and that they are all part of the Fair Trade movement, which has become more and more regulated over the past 30 years."

The shop aims to expand into Glasgow and open another premises back at its previous home, St John's Church on Princes Street.

*Iona Bain is shortlisted in the Media Awards, Consumer Article of the Year category, for her work in The Herald