Charities: what have they ever done for me?

Warm Charity Word Wall - Woman's outstretched open hand with the word 'charity' in white above palm, surrounded by charity related words on a rustic orange and purple stone effect background

News & Insights

Julie Hutchison

16th September 2016 at 2:00pm

Charities are part of the fabric of life in the UK. They’re so interwoven, in fact, that it’s only when I stopped and thought about what role they’d had in my life that their importance became even clearer to me.

My first experience of hill-walking and canoeing was courtesy of GirlGuiding.  I’ve stayed in youth hostels on several trips, surrounded by beautiful scenery in peaceful locations.  Walking in the countryside has often involved being on National Trust property. At university I spent five years as a student of an institution which is a registered charity. You get the picture.

Charities are part of the fabric of life in the UK

These examples all share similar characteristics. I have a positive association with these charities because of the experiences they have enabled.

I value these moments and memories all the more because, in reality, life is rarely sunshine and fun every day. And in difficult times, charities have also been there as a source of support.

On several occasions when I’ve been looking for a way to help someone with a specific issue, I’ve found a charity which focuses on a specialist condition or area through an internet search.  Finding a source of information, with the ability to talk to someone ‘who’s been there’, has been key.

I have a positive association with these charities because of the experiences they have enabled.

How should we fund charities?

If charities provide essential and highly valued services, how should they be funded? There is always a tension between the availability of public funding versus how much private fundraising is required. I see no easy answers here.

Could technology be the future of funding?

One financial trend I have noticed ties in with the changing way we pay for things.  Contactless payment is becoming more common, with over 200 million contactless transactions in the UK in June alone.

Find out more about how plastic payment has changed our spending habits over the last decade.


‘Tap and go’ fundraising, I reckon, will only increase as fewer people carry cash which means buckets for coin donations will decrease in use. Some charities are already making use of this technology.  Fundraising apps also exist which incorporate a charity donation with other online activity.

Tap and go fundraising will increase as cashless society becomes the norm

The challenge which lies ahead for charities is similar to that facing individuals and other organisations – how to cope with the transition to a more digitally-enabled world? 

This won’t impact charity fundraising alone; it has far wider consequences and brings in operations, communications, donor and beneficiary engagement and more.

Those of us who grew up enjoying the squidgy keys of a ZX Spectrum can just about keep-up with all of this.  Younger digital natives get there quickly.

But what about my parents’ generation? Their first encounter with new technology may have been watching the Queen’s Coronation on a neighbour’s television set in 1953.  And trustees of my parents’ age are often found on charity boards, with time to give.

Consider board diversity

For charities wanting to make the most of the transition which lies ahead, one coping mechanism could well be to consider board diversity, and the benefits of mixing experience and skills around the board table.  Looking ahead to Trustees’ Week later this year, I look forward to exploring these issues at events in November.

Want to become a charity trustee?

If you are interested in becoming a charity trustee, watch out for an event near you during Trustee Week. It’s a good way to find out more about what’s involved in taking on a charity board role.

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The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice and is correct as of September 2016. Standard Life is not responsible for the content on external websites.