We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!

When it comes to charity tickets, paying 10% more is more than worth it.

The MSG and I went to London Zoo today; we wanted to see if the new Gorilla enclosure matched up to what was said. The full ticket price (see London 2 for 1 for how to get it cheaper) is £16. During the very long queue to get in, I was intrigued to read £1.50 of this was a voluntary donation, and wondered why. My instinct telling me that as ZSL, which runs London Zoo, is a charity, it was something to do with Gift Aid (where you can make donations to charities and the charity gets to keep the tax (read the Give more to charity at no cost article).

When I got home, being the sad nerd I am, I decided to see if I could find some details about how it works. As you’ll see here (HM Revenue Charity Rules) this is all about when a charity can reclaim gift aid on tickets sales. By including 10% of the price as voluntary (and it must be obvious and stated) it can then treat the entire amount as a tax free donation under the normal gift aid rules.

So what does all this mean in practice? If ever you’re going to a zoo/museum/national trust property that has a voluntary donation of 10% on top, it’s worth genuinely considering the impact of not paying that donation.

A ticket is £10, which includes a £1 voluntary donation.
If you choose to pay the £9, the charity only receives £9.
Yet if you pay the full £10 the charity not only gets the £10 but can also reclaim £2.80.

In other words, by saving yourself 10%, you cost the charity 30%.

Now you may find this slightly at odds with the London 2 for 1 ticket loophole that I incorporated into the first line. Yet for me this is all about putting it into perspective. By using that system you save 50% and the charity’s income is reduced by 50%, but it is still maximising its revenue on what you pay. Yet by simply avoiding the voluntary donation, which is done for technical reasons anyway, you save a much smaller amount than it costs the charity – which overall isn’t an efficient use of the cash.

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