Whether you're inspired to wear a Christmas jumper, take part in a charity bake off, buy charity Christmas cards, give your time to help the homeless, or support international coordinated disaster responses such as the Yemen crisis appeal launched earlier this month by the Disasters Emergency Committee, Christmas is clearly an important time to donate time or money to a cause that matters to you. But with so many charities in the UK, how do you know which one to give to?
Unfortunately there are some fraudsters and criminals that are prepared to take advantage of the public's generosity and goodwill at this time of year by misusing donations or funds. This is rare, and we don't want the public to be put off giving to charities that do really important work, but we all want to make sure this doesn't happen.
Our advice to the public is be aware and just take a few simple steps to ensure your money reaches its intended destination. We've teamed up with the Fundraising Regulator to set out the key things you can do - whether donating online or in person - to ensure your money reaches the right hands:
•Firstly, check the charity's name and charity registration number. You can then verify this on the Charity Commission's register of charities online which is very easy to use. If the charity is in Scotland or Northern Ireland it should be registered with OSCR or CCNI respectively.
•When approached by street collectors, ask to see the collector's ID badge. Also check that the collector has a licence to fundraise with the local authority or the consent of the private site owner.
•Ensure any collection device is sealed and fundraising materials are in a good condition
•If you're giving online, be wary of unsolicited emails from charities you've never heard of or have no association with. Instead, search online for your chosen charity to check you have the right web address and donate directly to them.
•When giving online, check there is a padlock symbol in the URL bar and that the web address starts with 'https'
•If in doubt, never feel pressurised by a fundraiser into making a donation immediately. You can always donate directly to charity through other channels.
•If you think after making these checks that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, report it to the police or Action Fraud. And if you have concerns about a registered charity, contact the Charity Commission and/or the Fundraising Regulator and we will look into it.
Yet with over 165,000 charities registered in England and Wales, there's still clearly a lot of choice when it comes to donating to good causes. How can you tell if your money will be used on the end cause? And which charities operate most efficiently?
Deciding whether to give to a charity should be a combination of what your head and your heart say. There are a lot of charities doing good work and coming up with new innovative fundraising campaigns, but if you're thinking about giving, think about which causes and issues personally matter to you. But also be sensible, do some research, read about a charity's work and financial information on our charity register as well as its own website, and seek evidence of the impact the charity is having so that you can make an informed decision when donating or volunteering your time.
Transparency is key to driving public trust and confidence in charities and will be essential to maintaining donations and good relationships between fundraisers, charities and the public going forward. Charities should be transparent across all their operations, fundraising activities and fees. But it's also up to you to ask sometimes tricky or searching questions - genuine fundraisers will be happy to answer questions and explain the positive impact their charity is having on its cause.
Christmas is a great time to give back, and there are thousands of worthy charities and causes in need of your support right now. So please donate, but before you do so, make sure it's a registered legitimate charity and seek out causes that matter to you so that you have peace of mind that your donation will make a positive difference this Christmas.