David Cameron

David Cameron launched the government's Giving White Paper yesterday

Yesterday, David Cameron launched the Government’s greatly anticipated Giving White Paper as part of its Big Society agenda. This builds on their Green Paper published in December and a consultation exercise in which they asked people for their thoughts on giving.

The White Paper sets out measures to help create what the Government calls ‘social norms of giving and volunteering’ – initiatives that will help get people more involved with charities.

Cancer Research UK is the UK’s largest fundraising charity. We receive no Government funding for our research and rely on the generosity of the public to fund our work. We also have around 45,000 fantastic volunteers who give their time to help us, so we’ve been reading the proposals with great interest.

So what does it say?

The Government sees its role as facilitating giving, rather than dictating how it should be done. It makes a number of announcements, the key ones being:

  • A major new year-long campaign to encourage ‘payroll giving’. This works by employees signing up to a monthly donation which comes straight out of their pay and is therefore tax-effective, meaning that donations can be increased by up to 40 per cent at no cost to the donor.
  • Enabling people to donate at ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cash machines
  • A new ‘One Day Challenge’ to encourage Ministers and civil servants to give at least a day a year to a good cause, and the Government will encourage payroll giving among its employees.
  • The Government is exploring ‘Round Pound’ mechanisms which allow people to round up their bills with the difference going to charity.

And what do we think?

We were especially pleased to see a mention of ‘Give Change Make Change’ – in the White Paper. This is a ‘Round Pound’ initiative from a consortium of four charities (us, the British Red Cross, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and WWF). Give Change Make Change sits on a working group that the Government set up and we’re looking forward to working with them to explore the concept further.

We believe that the easier it is to give and volunteer, and the more options there are for people to do so, the better.

As we’ve said before on this blog, Payroll Giving has never fully realised its potential, so we’re glad the Government is trying to raise its profile. And enabling people to give at cash points should help to make giving a greater part of everyday life. We’re also pleased to see the Government leading by example and encouraging Ministers to volunteer.

The Government has said that “this paper marks the beginning of a process of engagement, not the end of one” and we hope that this means that they’ll go on to introduce bigger, bolder measures to help charities. For example, it would be great if Ministers went one step further in leading by example and pledged to leave a percentage of their estate as a Legacy to charity.

But will it work?

A report on household giving published in February by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy shows that levels of giving have remained relatively stable over the last thirty years.

All this may mean that the Government will have a tricky job in trying to increase the amount people give. The silver lining is that, arguably, few Governments have attempted to make such a big change in the amount people give and volunteer – so this will hopefully increase their chances of success.

We know that it’s not easy to simply create social norms overnight. Getting more people giving will require a long-term effort from the Government, charities and businesses. And the real test will be how the public reacts.

Heather Walker

Heather is a Policy Researcher at Cancer Research UK