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Charity begins at home

Never has this old adage been more true than in the midst of the UK’s current Covid-19 lockdown. Many of us will be keenly contemplating how we can help as, from the comfort of our sofas, we watch an unprecedented medical event unfold that is having an impact across the globe.

Philanthropy has always come in many different forms, from traditional charity donations and legacies to investing in a way that is socially responsible or offering time as a charity trustee. In the present circumstances there remains a spectrum of ways to benefit others. This could include informally helping an elderly neighbour with their food shopping or signing up to be an NHS volunteer. Around the world, we have also seen wealthy individuals make very generous charitable gifts. The news from Spain of significant donations from the world of football is a good example.

Setting up your own charity can be incredibly rewarding and worthwhile. However the establishment process can take some time. Moreover, we are presently in a new era of remote working and the Charity Commission is likely to be experiencing significant pressure. Philanthropists wishing to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 might wish to consider a flexible and immediate alternative, the “donor advised fund” or “DAF”. Broadly, DAFs are registered UK charities which offer various different services to aid charitable giving. For instance, donors can open and fund an account with a DAF.  Donors can intermittently identify specific charitable causes to support in the UK and abroad and ask the DAF to make donations (subject to appropriate vetting). This could be particularly helpful given the response to Covid-19 is rapidly evolving, with new research and new medical facilities being identified all the time. DAFs can also offer opportunities for collective fundraising for a particular cause and for “incubating” the activities of a hatchling operational charity. By “operational” here, I mean carrying out key activities itself, such as supply of medical equipment or food, rather than grant-making.

In a time to join arms in taking steps to combat Covid-19, it is also important to remember that there are numerous other charities out there in different fields who are continuing to carry out their good work and are in need of support. If you have been meaning to make charitable gifts or add charitable legacies to your Will but not found the time, maybe this lockdown offers a golden opportunity to do something positive?

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