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How you can help cash-strapped charities keep up and running | Money

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When this year’s London Marathon finally took place earlier this month, the slimmed-down field spelled bad news for charities.

For 13 years, the annual event had been the largest single-day fundraiser in the calendar, with 2019 bringing in £66.4m for a variety of good causes.

This year, with just elite runners on the course, and others forced to take part in a virtual version, the figure slumped to £16.1m.

It’s an illustration of the huge difficulties faced by charities, one in 10 of which are expected to face bankruptcy by the end of the year as they struggle to deal with a drop in donations.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) says that the number of people giving cash, usually the most popular choice, has dropped during the pandemic.

On top of this, shop closures have also cost causes dear: Oxfam says it lost £5m a month, while Save the Children UK says it will be down by £16m.

Cancer Research UK is expecting a drop of £160m this year. “While we remain committed to making progress for people affected by cancer, the reality is we face more tough decisions and difficult times ahead, so we’re relying on donations from the public more than ever,” says director of trading Julie Byard.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at IFA Hargreaves Lansdown, says that while some charities have benefited from high-profile fundraising events, the pandemic has dealt a serious, possibly fatal, blow to others. “Fundraisers have been axed, charity shops shut, and donations cut – all at a time when the need for help has soared,” she says.

It’s not all bad news. More people are donating online and just one in 20 have dropped a standing order to a charity, according to the CAF.

“During the lockdown, giving levels by individuals resembled levels that we would normally see in November and December – peak giving months. Those who could give, did so – that’s welcome good news,” says Caroline Mallan of CAF.

With charities needing our help more than ever, and some of us struggling for cash, too, what’s the most efficient way to support them?

Giving through payroll

Some employers offer payroll giving schemes where your contribution is taken from your earnings before you are taxed – but after your national insurance contributions have been deducted. This way your donation is worth more to the charity than it is to you in your pay packet.

Your employer will need to be part of the payroll giving scheme for you to do this – you cannot go directly to a scheme provider or the charity.

The downside is that payroll giving agencies can charge fees for administration, which may come from the donation if you employer does not pay it. The most popular scheme is the CAF’s Give As You Earn, which works with 2,700 companies and 250,000 staff to give more than £74m to charity each year.

Gift Aid

When you give to a charity, the donation can be made greater by signing a Gift Aid declaration which means that the charity can reclaim the basic rate tax you have already paid. As a result, a £1 donation is worth £1.25 to the charity. You must make a declaration to each charity you want to donate to. If you are a higher-rate taxpayer, you can claim back the difference between what the charity gets and what you would get if you had full tax relief. So on each £1 donation you can claim back 25p. You need to do this via your self-assessment form.

Giving shares

A relatively unknown but tax-efficient strategy, giving shares means that you don’t have to pay capital gains tax on any growth and you can claim income tax relief on their value. In other words, you can subtract the value of the donated shares from your total taxable income before tax is calculated. “If you hold small amounts of shares, which aren’t worth the cost of selling them, this can be a useful way of getting full value,” says Coles.

For donations of less than £500, charities often recommend using ShareGift, a charity which places them into a portfolio until there are enough to sell. It then donates the money to other charities. “Although you can say where you would like the money to go, the charity won’t necessarily receive it – it choses where to send it based on the value of donations and the number of nominations each charity receives,” says Coles.

Leaving money in your will

“In tough times, it can be difficult to free up money for donations, but one option is to leave money in your will,” says Coles. “This doesn’t just mean making a difference to a cause you care about, it can work in your favour, too.”

The money will come out of your estate before it is assessed for inheritance tax. Furthermore, if you leave at least 10% to charity, the rate of inheritance tax your family is charged goes from 40% to 36%.

However, there are some issues to be aware of. Coles warns that naming the charity in the will means that it will be aware of the donation, and may chase it up in the case of any delay, which can be distressing to a family. She suggests mentioning the gift in the will and then detailing the recipient in an adjoining letter. Having a letter detailing your decision could help reassure your family that you made a deliberate choice, and prevent them from challenging the will. Also, include the charity number in the letter so there are no misunderstandings as to the recipient.

Leaving a fixed sum may affect how much the other beneficiaries will get if your circumstances change. You may have to incur the costs of going into a nursing home, for example, which will mean the amount you had originally specified to give makes up a much bigger part of the estate. A way around this is to set a percentage figure to be given to charity.

In all cases, it’s wise to tell your family of your plans so there are no surprises when you die.

It doesn’t have to be cash

According to the CAF, one in six people volunteered for a charity over the last year. This doesn’t have to be working in a shop or rattling a donation box, it can include offering pro bono professional advice such as in legal or accountancy services.


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What cooking skills should children learn? | Food

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What’s the best way to get children interested in cooking, and what should I teach them?
Georgie, Suffolk

The golden rule, says Thomasina Miers, is patience – and lots of it. “It can be a slow process,” she sympathises. “I talk about how delicious food is and always put olive oil, lemons and herbs on the table for them to add to their meal.”

And it’s a good idea to start them young. “Kids are mimics,” says restaurateur and author of Australian Food Bill Granger, “so they’ll do what you do.”

Darina Allen, who runs the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, puts toddlers on stirring duty. A messy strategy, yes, so gird yourself. Granger agrees: “They’ll make your life hard,” he says “but just involve them.”

Perhaps controversially, Allen then turns to knife skills: “Lots of parents wouldn’t be happy with this, but from three and a half to four years old they can hold a knife. It’s vital they’re shown how to use one safely, keeping the tips of the fingers tucked under the knuckles and, if they’re using the tip of the knife, to put the index finger along the back of the blade.”

Don’t be afraid to deploy underhand tactics, AKA bribery. Miers suggests banana and chocolate bread or fairy cakes to tempt five-year-olds into the kitchen: “They’re fun and sugary – you’ve got to get them that way.” Allen finds success in drop scones: “Children can put spoonfuls on to a frying pan, wait until the bubbles rise and burst, flip over with a palette knife and cook on the other side.” If enthusiasm wavers, baker Lily Jones, founder of east London’s Lily Vanilli, relinquishes control over decorating cupcakes or cookies: “Their enthusiasm can drop off a cliff abruptly, so I’m quick to do the boring parts.”

By the time they’re eight, Granger looks for dishes with a bit of a process: “Pizza dough is great: I use three cups of flour, a cup of water and a couple of teaspoons of yeast.” Kids can then go all-out on toppings. Try quick and easy dips, such as hummus, which children can cut celery and cucumber into sticks to dip in, or get the box grater out for vegetable fritters (Allen recommends carrot and spring onion). Miers says: “A cheese and herb omelette is also a good skill to have. Children can grate cheese and cut herbs (with scissors if their knife skills aren’t up to it).”

Come 12, Miers ups the ante with homemade pasta, while Granger makes life easier with a gnocchi bake, adding a simple tomato sauce (using passata) and mozzarella. Crumbles and traybakes (think flapjacks) are, of course, good for most ages, but Jones suggests adding basic icing techniques to their arsenal too: “Use a dessert spoon to scoop icing on to a cake or cupcake, then use the back of the spoon to create waves and spread on the icing.”

When they hit their teens, it’s time to experiment. “Find out what their favourite food is and get a cookbook,” Granger says, who then puts them to work cooking for friends. “After all, kids like showing off.”

Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email [email protected]


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My stepson saw an explicit video of his dad on my phone. What should I do? | Life and style

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My husband of 10 years used to travel a bit on business, and we would send each other explicit photos and videos of ourselves. I thought I had hidden all incriminating images in a protected folder on my phone, but, the other night, while I was randomly flicking through old family videos with my husband and 13-year-old stepson, up popped a video of my husband in all his glory, holding himself. There was stunned silence from the two of us, then panicked laughter, while my stepson looked at me with a bemused “busted!” expression. He still seems unconcerned about it, but both of us feel terrible. Should we have a conversation about it, wait to see if he acts any differently towards us, or trust our first instinct, which was to be a bit embarrassed and then pretend it never happened? We’re not a prudish household, but we figure that forcing him to talk could make this episode even weirder and more awkward than it already is. What should we do?

Our children pick up on our attitudes towards sex without any words being spoken. In fact, the most powerful learning they receive is the unspoken message. They easily absorb how each parent views sex, through our reactions when sexual content appears on TV, or the way we react when someone alludes to sex in conversation. Given that unspoken messages are the most powerful ways parents communicate ideas and feelings about sex, you have already let your stepson know everything he needs to understand about this. He is old enough to put it into context, and if he questions you in the future your job is to simply give a relaxed answer. You were right to normalise the accidental revelation, and there would be little point in returning to the subject.


  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to [email protected] (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

  • Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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#EtimesSuaveMen: Five ways men can experiment with scarves

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Whether it is to protect yourself from the cold weather or you need a statement accessory, every man requires a scarf or two in his wardrobe. And, now as the winter season is approaching, it’s time to get creative with your scarf draping styles. Be it a casual or business look, learn stylish ways to wear a scarf. Here’s a look at five ways you can wear a scarf and beat the chill in style:

Casual
For a simple and casual look, you can pull off a laid-back style with your scarf. Wrap the scarf around your neck and pull out the ends and adjust at the same level. You can tuck it into your jacket or layer it on top of a fuzzy sweater.

casual scarf men

Smart Casual
If you’re not a fan of the ‘too casual look’, you can drape a scarf over the shoulder. Simply drape the scarf over the neck and keep one end longer than the other. This can help to add a touch of finesse to your casual look.

casual scarf

Formal
For a formal setting, it is important to drape the scarf with clean lines for a smart look. With a suit, you can try the ascot knot by draping the scarf around the shoulder and form a cross. Then, put one end under the other and pull it up to make a knot and tuck it in for a neat look.

Ascot knot

(How to tie an ascot knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Business
For a business or official meeting, your scarf needs to look sophisticated and sharp. Ascot and loop knots can work well for a clean look. For the loop knot, fold the scarf in half and wrap it around your neck. Next, add the loose ends through the loop to make this knot.

loop knot

loop knot

(How to tie a loop knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Evening
Whether you’re wearing a tuxedo or a suit, a stylish scarf can make a sartorial statement. It’s best to stick to fine fabrics like silk and cashmere with subtle patterns. You can wrap the scarf around the neck and tuck it behind the lapels of the jacket as shown in the photo.

scarf with suit


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