Martin Lewis: What happened to my pledge to give £10m to charity in 2012…?

Important: This blog is out of date, for the latest version please see Martin Lewis Charity Fund Update 2024: What happened to my pledge to give £10m? (Spoiler: it's now £20m+)

In June 2012 I pledged £10m for charity when MSE joined the MSM group and that for transparency I'd periodically bash out a blog explaining what was happening with it. Over the break I realised 2015 was the last time I'd done that, so an update is overdue…

Back then I stated my ambition was to set up The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and indeed that happened in 2016. Its success has vastly exceeded my expectations. Yet it's not the only change, so let me run through the facts. 

The big picture: the £10m has become nearer to £20m…

First, the financials.

  • The total that's gone to charity funds, including Gift Aid, is £11m.
  • £2m of this was direct funding to Citizens Advice.
  • £9m was put into a Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) fund. This is a bit like a charity bank account. I control the money, but can only use it to make donations to registered charities (you can do a similar charity account from just £10/month – one reason I did it this way was to publicise that).
  • Of that £9m, so far nearly £4m has gone to specific charities (detailed below). Even after giving £4m to charities, fantastically there's still just under £14m left in the CAF fund. If you think that doesn't add up, you're right. It's because the investments I had a large chunk of the charity money in fortunately did well. Though I've now moved it to safer shores.

You'll be unsurprised to hear I don't intend to splurge it. I only tend to do major donations, only to projects I'm actively engaged in, rather than just writing a cheque, and I like to do research and planning to ensure maximum impact. So I will keep disbursing the money gradually, as and when appropriate.

The four major projects so far

  1. Money and Mental Health Policy Institute: £1.4m (£800,000 further pledged until 2020). I set up the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) in 2016 and currently chair the trustees. Its core job is research and advocating non-partisan policy-change to break the toxic link between mental health issues and debt.

    The donation funds eight full-time members of staff – who are all passionate about the subject and brilliant at what they do. The team's impact has already shifted the way mental health is dealt with in financial and consumer sectors.

    There's a full list of what MMHPI has done so far but successes include the Government agreeing to extend its Breathing Space debt respite scheme to those in NHS crisis mental health care, so they won't have to deal with letters, calls or charges on their debts. It's also seen the PM pledge to end GP charges for the debt and mental health evidence form (we're still working to hold her to account on this).

    Companies have changed behaviour too – Barclays, Monzo & Starling have launched tools to help people control gambling based on our research. We've also produced nine best practice guides for banks, telecoms firms, social landlords and others, to provide better support for those with mental health problems.

    And our research also led to regulator the Financial Conduct Authority doing a U-turn on its definition of "vulnerability", ensuring those with mental health problems won't lose out. 

    My full-funding pledge runs out in 2020, at which point I want to gradually reduce my donations, not out of a lack of generosity, but as a good charity should, to an extent, be able to financially wipe its own bottom and generate other income. I always wanted MMHPI to be (and it already is) far more than just a 'Martin Lewis' vehicle. 

  2. Financial education in schools (incl textbook): £1,030,000. Financial education has long been a campaigning priority for me. I worked with the Young Money charity (PFEG as was) in our successful campaign to get financial education on the English national curriculum in 2014. So the charity seemed a natural partner, we've done two projects: 

    - Funding the My Money Week project for three years from 2016 to 2018, so children in all UK schools get access to free resources and education on managing money.  
    - Funding and developing the first curriculum-mapped financial education textbook, and sending 340,000 to all English state schools (100 per school). Click for a free PDF download.

  3. Citizens Advice UK: £2m. Two £1m donations in 2012 and 2015 split across the UK nations in proportion to their population. I did this partly as I love Citizens Advice's voluntary ethos and great work; but also to expose that debt-counselling funding had been cut by the Govt in the recession.

    With the second donation, I was delighted that the England & Wales Citizens Advice set up the Martin Lewis Citizens Advice fund (its choice of name, not mine), giving local bureaux innovation grants to develop new ways to reach and help more people.

  4. Trussell Trust financial triage: £600,000. The money was for The Trussell Trust  to pilot, then, in 2015, roll out putting financial triage in foodbanks (see Trussell Trust release). Part of the idea was to show the concept works so that the foodbanks could then engage councils and other community stakeholders to do it everywhere. 

Smaller donations, in brief

In order of most recent donation first…

  • £16,000 to fund the Alzheimer's Society financial services charter (Jun 2018).
  • £35,000 to First Light Trust for financial triage & drug help for military veterans (Jun 2018).
  • £96,000 to Grief Encounter, mostly to fund a new helpline. It'll provide telephone grief-counselling support for children who have lost a parent (or sibling). It's due to launch this year – 2019 – I'll bump it into the major projects section when it does. Some of you may have seen the Radio 5 Live interview where I explain my connection with this charity (Jun 2018).
  • £24,000 to the John Schofield Trust to support mentoring, to help get those from underprivileged backgrounds into my industry, broadcast journalism.
  • £20,000 to the RNIB to support those who have just lost their sight manage their financial lives (Apr 2015).
  • £10,000 to Winston's Wish to help children and young people who have lost a parent (Feb 2014).
  • £100,000 to Mind for mental health work (Jun 2013).
  • £160,000 to the MSE Charity – this is the total of my personal donation since 2012, separate from MSE's donations before and since that.

There is an attempt at logic behind these donations 

A 'giving philosophy' does sound a bit pratty to me, but apparently it is the modern term for deciding what donations you make – and I do try to have a logic behind my decisions.

I've always believed, while profit-making, has at its core a public service remit – its primary job, protected by our Editorial Code, is to provide information to cut people's bills and fight their corner.

Yet I've always realised there are people a website can't reach or help. So as I'm lucky enough to have charity funds due to MSE's success, I want to fill in the gaps that it can't reach.

The Citizens Advice donation is because sometimes one-on-one help is needed. MMHPI is because mental health can impact people's ability to look after themselves. The Trussell Trust helps many who aren't online or don't access crucial information. And of course we need to try to educate as many of our young people to look after their finances – to prevent future problems.

Of course some of the smaller donations, like the John Schofield and Grief Encounter, are more personal, but overall I hope there is some cohesion to my giving.

A friendly but important note to charity fundraisers...

I'm afraid I don't accept or read unsolicited pitches for donations, so please don't waste your resources doing it. My donations are almost always proactive coming from the work I do, or charities I'm already working with, rather than signing a cheque based on a pitch. 

The charities I work with

As we're on the subject of charity, and I feel like I'm self-auditing, I feel that to finish, it is probably also worth noting down the charities that I've agreed to be a patron or ambassador of…

- The MSE Charity (obvs).
- The Social Mobility Partnership, which gives children from underprivileged backgrounds access to professions and work experience so they're not disadvantaged.
- Grief Encounter, by far the most difficult one for me, as explained above.
- The Personal Support Unit, which helps those having to represent themselves in the civil or family courts.
- National Numeracy campaign, to help improve functional numeracy.
- Prince's Trust – I feel slightly fraudulent with this one as I've not done anything for it yet.