Mary Wakefield

When giving makes you feel good

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Dr Salvatore LaSpada (what a lovely name) had a plaintive piece in yesterday's Daily Telegraph about how little we Brits give to charity. America gives away 1.7 per cent of it's GDP to good causes, he says, so what's with our pitiful 0.7? Giving is great! says LaSpada encouragingly, "It's the best fun you'll ever have!"  Whoa there Dr S! But he's right of course, giving does generally feel good, so there's probably a decent reason why we don't. And the reason I think is actually quite simple. It's not that we've contracted our consciences out to the State, or that we're intrinsically mean, but rather that Big Charity has taken over in the UK, and donating to Big Charity is no fun. Unless like Dr S & his pals, you've got a few million to give, it's like adding a pipette-full of water to a swimming pool and about as useful.

Much of America's charitable giving goes to local or faith-based groups -- ones people can believe in, and where its clear their cash will make a difference. But the only charities that cross a Brit's consciousness are already awash with dosh.

I looked up the incomes of our better-known charities just now, and sure enough, they gave my inner puritan palpitations: Cancer research UK made  380, 813, 000 pounds last year; the RNFL raised 117,600, 000; the RSPCA made 99, 959, 000, the RSPCB, 75, 138, 000 and Guide dogs for the blind,  55, 196, 000. Just look at those figures for a minute. Wallow in the great strings of zeros. I don't begrudge a maltreated budgie a drop of its budgie medicine, but if on those rare occasions when I'm overtaken by a wave of altruism the only charity I can think of is the RSPCB, I'm unlikely to get out my cheque book.

Written byMary Wakefield

Mary Wakefield is commissioning editor of The Spectator.

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