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Charity and why it is still important to donate

Charity it is still important to donate

The role that charities should play in our society has been the subject of a longstanding debate. Charities are organisations whose primary aim is to promote the welfare of others or benefit society. There are currently over 160,000 charities in the UK, turning over £48 bn annually. A large part of the funding for these comes from individual donations, in the UK 50% of adults donate to charity which is one of the highest levels in the world. But why are some people critical of charities and what value can they bring in today’s society? To answer these questions it will help to take a look at the history of charity in the UK. 

The history of charity

Charity Almshouse

Ruins of an Almshouse in York

For most of the history of the UK there was no such thing as the NHS, pensions, or organisations that you could rely on for support. Providing welfare was seen as the responsibility of individuals, their families, or the church. In the 10th century an institution called Almshouses was established through the church for people who could not care for themselves. The first Almshouse recorded was founded by Kind Athelstan in York. This was an early kind of charity. Almshouses provided food and shelter for people who were elderly, sick, poor, or orphaned. However, unlike how we think about charity these days, the motivation for Almshouses was more about the spiritual benefits to the donors rather than the recipients of the charitable aid.

A more modern idea of philanthropy developed in Tudor times. With the introduction of Protestantism, philanthropy became more secular and focused on meeting social needs. In the 18th century, charitable activity and philanthropy towards people who were disadvantaged became more popular. Many new charitable organisations were established by wealthy individuals, for example, the Foundling Hospital was set up in 1741 to look after abandoned children in Bloomsbury, London. The philanthropist Octavia Hill provided good quality social housing to the working classes. There was a prevailing idea that charity and philanthropy could provide a universal system of welfare. In addition to providing welfare directly, charities also started adopting more of a campaigning role for a particular cause and lobbying the government.

It wasn’t until the end of World War Two that the state became more involved with welfare provision. Sir William Beveridge chaired a committee that recommended a system of benefits that would support people ‘from cradle to grave’. People entitled to these benefits included those who were unemployed, sick, retired, or widowed. In addition, the NHS was created as well as reforms to working conditions, education, and housing.

Charity Octavia Hill

Octavia Hill, pioneer of social housing

Why do we still need charities?

If the government supports people from ‘cradle to grave’, then why do we still need charities?

Welfare provided by the state is clearly not extensive enough, and in many ways charities have become major providers of some public services. Since Covid-19 charities have been providing even more essential services to their local communities, while many have simultaneously seen their income plummet. Fundraising has become extremely difficult with social distancing, and sections of society have not able to work since lockdown. There has been an increase in redundancies, and a fear of possible redundancy in the future. However for those who can afford to, donating to charity will make a real difference not just to the organisations and their beneficiaries, but also to those who donate.

giving back 1024x683 1 charity

Giving is good for you

People who donate to charity feel good about helping others and giving to causes they believe in. Knowing that you are making a difference, improving the lives of the vulnerable and marginalised, and improving the world we live in, makes people happier.


Giving is good for business

It has been shown that businesses with corporate social responsibility programmes are more likely to do better. When associated with good causes, particularly if related to the nature of the business or its local community, brands are more memorable and associated with positive outcomes. It has also been shown that businesses with CSR programmes retain customers as well as staff.


Zetetick currently has four appeals listed on Total Giving. If you are able to make a donation to our charity it will improve the lives of our tenants.

Donations – our 4 appeals – Zetetick Housing

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