Expect the unexpected

Expect the unexpected

So, here we are in the first quarter of another year 2022! The so-called Season of Goodwill has come and gone: or has it? Unlike other constituents of the United Kingdom and, indeed, selected other countries, England enjoyed the Christmas and New Year season with an escape from any Corona virus lockdown impediments. A welcome break from any lockdown situation, that seemed to encourage goodwill among families and friends. Although even as I write I am on tender hoofs, for any lockdown situation could unexpectedly change with miniscule notice.

The waiting is over! Yes, we have finally crossed over the calendar threshold into yet another new year. None of us has any idea of what lies ahead, but if there is one thing we have all learned through the Corona virus pandemic, it is that we should always be on our guard and expect the unexpected. Two years or so ago, who would have imagined that an innocent-looking Covid-19 infection would invisibly pass among us and swiftly dominate the earth?

Christmas has passed but, hopefully, did not pass us by. The season of good will; the season of giving. God gave us his son, Jesus Christ, and for his birth contemporaries the situation was crammed full of the positively unexpected.

Mary certainly did not expect to become pregnant. Joseph did not expect to be visited by an angel in his dreams. Shepherds definitely did not expect the brightness of an angelic choir. Herod positively did not expect three strange astronomers to turn up at his palace entrance with some convoluted, yet seriously convincing, tale about an unexpected new king of the Jews!

And a country bumpkin innkeeper far from expected a birth to take place in his stable barn located on Bethlehem Down. His charitable humility nevertheless enabled him to give all that he could offer on what unexpectedly became the dawning of the season of goodwill.

A time for giving

Over the course of many years, the Christmas season has traditionally been increasingly tapped into by organisations seeking both financial and other support. Charities, in particular, have latched on to the belief that as it is the season of good will and giving, then it must be a prime time to canvass for a large slice of the donation cake.

In the introductory paragraph at the beginning of this article, the writer declares: The so-called Season of Goodwill has come and gone: or has it? The implication, quite rightly, is that the period of goodwill should be a continuous season. Not just for a term of two or three months each year, but rather an everlasting condition, a perpetual reality.

Whilst Christmas is a time of festivity and good will towards all people, it is celebrated in the act of giving. Charities and community organisations do not only seek financial donations; they value other types of giving. Giving of time by those who are able to volunteer any time from an hour occasionally to a day or more whenever they can offer the time positively. Others, such as food banks, value gifts of food and other commodities for the homeless and those on a low income.

The time of giving is here and now. Community work and charity support of neighbours at home or abroad is an on going ministry of caring for others.

Perpetual digital

During the run up to, during, and since the week of Christmas, it seemed as though more charities than ever before were making their case through commercial television advertising slots.

Somebody remarked to me that the number of charity appeals during tv programmes occasionally took up most of the intermission. As this was hearsay, and could be down to Chinese Whispers, I have no way of knowing how true that may have been. But there is no smoke without fire, and the fact remains that charity appeals took up a lot of airtime and may still be doing so whilst you are reading this!

Most (perhaps all: I do not know!) charity appeal commercials rely on giving being something for every day, not just for Christmas. This comes across in their use of perpetual digital donations.

Financial appeals enjoy aiming their message to the many owners of digital mobile cell phones et al. Potential donors are invited to respond by sending a text using the Small Message Service (SMS). They are then invited to sign up to a regular donation of, say, £5 per month until such time in the future when they might decide to cancel the plan.

Contemporary technology is therefore used to convert what may have been a one off donation into an on going arrangement. Thus, the period of giving becomes continuous until cancelled.

Charities for all

Many people believe that supporting one or more not for profit charitable concerns is just one way of carrying out the biblical command to love our neighbours. Some of us have favourite charities that we like to support. Such favoured charities are often chosen because they have had an impact on either ourselves or someone close to us. With a growing number of reputable registered charities, it is not too difficult to find one to help.

Commercial businesses are also supporters of charity organisations involved with important, often life saving, work. Corporate bodies are well known for selecting a charity of the year, usually proposed and voted for by their employees. Manufacturing and hospitality industries frequently partner with a charity to support through their product. For instance, a breakfast cereal might state on the packaging something along the lines of “40p of the purchase price of this product is donated on your behalf to the Ennyseed Charitable Trust division of ACME plc”. This, of course, is an entirely fictional example, so any resemblance to any organisation bearing a similar name is one hundred percent coincidental!

Another example struck me a few weeks ago when I was dining at a Greene King venue (www.greeneking.co.uk/). It transpires that the Greene King company has worked with Macmillan Cancer Support as a national charity partner for ten years now. According to their website, their employee teams and customers have raised over £10 million for Macmillan Cancer Support; £1.2 million in September and October 2021 alone. Not only that, but many Greene King team members signed up as Macmillan volunteers, supporting people living with cancer as trained telephone buddies.

History Charitable GivingA few years ago, in the United States of America, some research was commissioned to look into the topic of supporting charities. The resulting detailed report drew attention to the fact that donating both time and money to good causes was nothing new, having been on the cards for many centuries in some form or another.

What is more recent is the vast amount of publicity that is generated by charities who are all vying for support in any way they can attract. Embroiled in such publicity is an ever increasing effort to persuade potential benefactors to bequeath finances and/or property to their preferred charity in their Will.

Indeed, reportedly, several charities are now apparently reliant on their expectations of receiving income through this route. So much so, that in Great Britain over the past few years, there has been a growing movement of solicitors offering to assist benefactors by waving their fees for Will preparation.

Various charities, especially the larger ones, believe it is to their advantage to promote the idea of giving through Wills. Several of these have also published free guides to Will writing, in the hope that readers will include a gift in their respective Wills.

MHA Care Homes have gone a stage further to offer a free Will writing service with absolutely no obligation to leave anything to their charity, although they would certainly welcome this! Full details are available on line at Free Wills Service | Writing Your Will Online | MHA. It may be that other charities have similar schemes that I am not aware of, so do not hesitate to enquire of your favourites.

To check out information concerning charities, visit the Government Charity Commission website for England and Wales at The Charity Commission – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). For Scotland, it is OSCR | Home, and for Northern Ireland, Home | The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (charitycommissionni.org.uk). Click on the relevant tabs for whatever information you are seeking.

In recent years, there has been increasing concern about charity fraud. In particular, fundraising for what appears to be a brilliant, caring genuine charity, but in reality is far from genuine. Anyone who needs to check out the credentials of any charity should find what they are looking for on the relevant country website noted in the previous paragraph. In the event that a charity name or detail does not appear, then click on the appropriate enquiry tab to seek clarification and/or report any suspicious activity.

Gift Aid: The Power to increase donations

Those who pay Income Tax in the United Kingdom and also donate financially to any charities are well advised to do so using the Government Gift Aid scheme.

Tesco stores constantly remind their customers that their Club Card scheme provides the power to lower prices. Conversely, the Gift Aid scheme provides the power to increase the value of monetary giving.

As long as the benefactor is a registered charity, and that means virtually all not for profit organisations including churches and other places of worship, Gift Aid is standing by, ready to boost all donated income.

Gift Aid logoIt works in this way: Anybody who is a standard United Kingdom Income Tax payer may elect to have their charitable contributions entered as Gift Aid donations. Donating through Gift Aid means charities can claim an extra 25p for every £1 that is donated. It does not cost the donor any extra.

Such elected donations need to be recorded by the organisation treasurer or appointed person, such as Gift Aid Secretary. In turn, application is made to H.M. Government, to claim Gift Aid on most donations, but some payments do not qualify.

When publicising any event where donations will be requested, it is perfectly acceptable to include in promotional materials some blurb or other reference about Gift Aid, even if it is just the inclusion of the Gift Aid logo.

Worth looking into

To discover more about donating by Gift Aid, go to Tax relief when you donate to a charity: Gift Aid – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). And for claiming that all-important sum from the UK Government, visit Claiming Gift Aid as a charity or CASC – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Charity treasurers wishing to claim their Gift Aid bonus from the UK Government should visit Claiming Gift Aid as a charity or CASC – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

It cannot be denied that the amazing work undertaken by charities of all kinds has always been, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of both animal and human life. It is difficult to imagine how some animals could have survived without animal charities such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), not forgetting, of course, the many animal sanctuaries around the globe.

Equally, it is not easy to comprehend how some human families and homeless brothers and sisters would have survived without neighbourly charity volunteers. Helping each other is what we are called to do, not seeking any reward other than that of knowing we are blessed by our God.

Our editorial office at MEN (Maintenance and Equipment News for Churches and Schools) publishes charitable announcements from time to time. In this issue, one page has eight (8) small charity windows. Please take a peek at each one of them.

And we pray that all charities will be enabled to continue their good work, often carried out under strenuous conditions, throughout 2022 and beyond.

Acknowledgement: The illustration History of Charitable Giving is used by kind permission of the Journal of Consumer Research, USA.

Eric A. Thorn
Email: EricAThorn@msn.com