What happened to the £10m (now £20m) I promised to donate to charity?

In June 2012 I pledged, when MSE joined the MSM group, that charities would receive £10 million. For transparency’s sake periodically I bash out a quick blog explaining what’s happening with the money. This is the third one, and best of all I can now (scroll to the end) reveal big plans for the future of a big chunk for the cash.

Plus on the back of my share of last week’s MSE earnout payment, I announced new donations to Citizen Advice, Trussell Trust & PFEG (I’ll detail those below). So let me run through it…

Major donations made so far

My primary focuses are financial education, financial capability and the impacts of mental health on people’s finances. These crucial areas aren’t particularly sexy, and I feel in a great position to aid them and highlight the plight.

  • £1m to Citizens Advice UK (now worth £1.48m): I made this in 2012 and split it across the national agencies according to population. England and Wales CAB got £615,000 cash and 215,703 Moneysupermarket shares (now valued at today’s price of more than £729,000), see my what I spent the money on blog. Scotland’s CAB got £85,000 cash, and Northern Ireland CAB, £50,000 cash.

    I did this partly as I love the CAB, its voluntary ethos and the great work it does. Yet also because its debt counselling funding had just been cut by the Government at such a crucial time in the recession. It should not be for private individuals to make up this gap – but it was needed and I wanted to expose that.

    Plus few people realise the CAB is a charity, even those who use its services. So many who’ve been helped don’t consider giving back when things are better. This needs to change as the organisation desperately needs support.

  • Another £1m to Citizens Advice UK: To continue the tradition, last week after getting new money I pledged CAB would receive £1,000,000. As its from my earnout, I haven’t paid it out yet, as I’m waiting until I get the cash. Again, I will split it across the three national agencies in proportion to population. See the CAB announcement.

  • PFEG £700,000: Having previously done 2 x £100,000 donations from my charity fund to the Personal Finance Education Group (now a sub brand of Young Enterprise), last week I pledged £500,000 specifically to fund three years of its My Money Week project (see the PFEG announcement) which ensures children in schools across the UK get a highlighted week of education.

    I worked with PFEG on the successful campaign to get Fin Ed onto the curriculum and value its work – and in some ways that success hurt the charity as many felt the ‘job done’, so pulled funding. Whereas I feel it’s only just started.

  • £600,000 to the Trussell Trust to fund Financial Triage: Last year I gave £100,000 to The Trussell Trust to pilot putting financial triage in food banks. It’s been hugely successful with many of those helped going on to take up other money help services and get their lives back on track. So this week I announced another £500,000 to role this out across more food banks. See Trussell Trust Release.

  • £100,000 to Mind for mental health work.

  • £20,000 to the Royal National Institute of Blind People to support those who’ve just lost their sight get help and advice to continue to manage their (including financial) lives.

  • £10,000 to Winston’s Wish to help children and young people who have lost a parent(s), as I did.

So that means the amount charities have received (or are imminently about to receive) from major donations so far is £3,910,000 – and I’ve also made a few smaller donations too (in the £100s).

How much money is there in the charity fund?

First, let me explain what the charity fund is. I donated the cash, the gift aid was added, and it went into what is effectively a bit like a charity bank account run by the Charities Aid Foundation. I now have control of the money, but can only use it to pay a registered charity (as I’ve done with the donations above).

PS if you like the idea you can do something similar too – starting with a donation of £100 initially or just £10 a month in its charity accounts scheme – one of the reasons I did it this way rather than my own trust was to publicise this way to give.

While the total charities and the charity fund have received so far is £11m, wonderfully even after the above donation’s there’s a lot more left, as a chunk of the original amount donated was in MoneySupermarket shares (part of my payment for MSE) and they have risen rapidly and paid out dividends to the charity.

This August, for the first time the charity fund was allowed to sell shares, so I arranged for 90% of them to be sold to lock in the big gains (as a charity fund too reliant on any individual share is never a good idea).

So after the donations above, the state of play in the charity fund will look as follows (I’m in the process of jigging about the investment balance to try and keep the returns high):

  • Cash (ie in charity savings): £15.04m
  • Investments (I’ve put money in a charity investment that loans to charities to help them): £550,000
  • Moneysupermarket shares: there’s 258,800 of these left – so £865,000 at current rates

So total these up and that means there’s £16,455,000 still left to donate.

Major donations to come

This obviously leaves me in the lucky position of having lots still in the charity fund to play with. I don’t intend to pressure myself to use it all immediately. I want to maximise the use of each penny – and hope to still have a chunk left even in five years’ time.

Yet there is one big project I’ve been keen on since the beginning that’s now underway…

  • I aim to set up a Mental Health & Debt Policy Institute. I am already in discussions with a potential chief executive – someone high powered with big political experience – to run it. I will take the role of chair of trustees when it starts in 2016 and am willing (if needed) to donate £3 – £4m to get it going. I see it as one of the most important projects I’ll be involved in and hope it’ll raise its own funds after.

    Update note: We are now launching the new Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.

    This isn’t a charity that will be interacting with the public as a support agency. The idea is to come up with innovative solutions for the prevention (rather than cure) of mental health issues causing debt problems and vice versa. Then once the solutions are in place, to lobby, cajole, bully and help financial services firms, regulators and politicians to make them happen.

    An example would be a voluntary register where those with bipolar who have spending sprees, or depression spending sprees can register their credit cards. Then if they have unusual spending patterns the card firms cut them off until a trusted friend says it’s OK to turn it back on. Thus preventing a disastrous few weeks of spending that takes years to recover from.

    More to come on this as we develop. The next step is the pre-set up research process. The aim is to talk to other charities who work in the debt space and mental health space to ensure we’re not duplicating and this isn’t a territory grab – it’s an aim to bring everyone together to get something done.

    I believe to make this work needs clout, hard work, research, and political know how and with my profile, the CEO’s experience and some good trustees, we may just be able to make some good happen.

I hope that all gives you a decent background to where I’m going with the charity funds.

PS. Just to clarify, all the donations above are separate to the MSE Charity Fund and the MSE Charity.