Martin Lewis: What happened to my pledge to give £10m to charity – 2022 update (spoiler: it's now £20m)
2023 Update: Please read the latest 2022/23: Martin Lewis Charity Fund blog to find out what’s happened to the fund. The blog below is now out of date.
Nearly a decade ago, in June 2012, MSE joined the Moneysupermarket Group and I pledged £10m to go to charity. As that was a public pledge and I feel I've a duty of transparency, every year or two I bash out a blog report to explain where I'm up to, and who's got what money.
Last year, my January 2021 blog led on the then-biggest single project, my emergency, fast set-up Coronavirus Poverty Fund with £3.4m donated (£2.1m directly from my fund).
Since then I've been focusing on long-standing projects, with nearly £1m more funding to Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) (which now means, in total, it overtakes the Covid fund as the biggest donation recipient).
Though with the cost of living crisis biting, I've made some emergency donations, including £100,000 to fund a new web chat service for fuel poverty charity National Energy Action and £50,000 to debt charity Money Buddies to help it better meet overwhelming demand.
Anyway, this is mainly a stats blog, so...
The big picture: the £10m is now well over £20m…
- £11m is the total I've put into charity funds, including Gift Aid (or equivalent).
- £2m of this was direct funding to Citizens Advice.
- £9m was put into a Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) fund. This works like a charity bank account – I control it, but can only use it to make charitable-type donations (anyone can do this from £10/month – see charity accounts).
- £9m from that CAF fund has now gone to specific charities (detailed below).
- So that's total donations of £11m including Citizens Advice. That means for the first time I've now disbursed more than the £10m I originally pledged to.
- The good news – there's still £9.45m left in the CAF fund. And delightfully if you think all this doesn't add up, you're right. Primarily because the investments I had a chunk of the charity money in did well. Though in recent years I've moved it to safer shores.
- There's also £5m of other donations. Below I also mention about £5m of other donations not included in the £10m original pledge; either they were separate, before the charity fund pledge, or not funded by me directly.
With the remaining money, as always I like to focus on larger donations to projects I'm actively engaged in, rather than just writing a cheque. To make the money work best, I try to do research and planning for max impact. So I aim to keep disbursing the money gradually, as and when it fits, for maximum impact.
Where the money has gone so far... the big projects
- The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute: £3.35m (about £500,000 funding a year – I'm pledged to fund a minimum further £1.3m in future). I set up the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) charity in 2016 and chair the now impressive board of trustees.
Its core job is research and advocating non-partisan practical policy change to break the toxic link between mental health issues and debt (we need people with lived experience to help hone our policies, please do consider signing up here).
The donation funds 13 permanent 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 by government, politicians, regulators and firms.
You may be unaware many of the changes you hear of in this sector, from gambling blocks on credit and debit cards, to debt breathing space, and improvements in how firms treat those with mental health, are directly due to the charity. See MMHPI's impact report to find out more.
- The 'Martin Lewis Coronavirus Poverty Fund': £3.4m (£2.1m from me, £1.3m raised from others). In March 2020, my aims were simple...
- To provide urgent relief to those struggling due to the pandemic.
- To use my profile to bring in other donations (I started before the official fundraising scheme was in place).
- To do this via small charities, in order to help them survive too – including food banks, domestic abuse charities, cancer groups and more.
At the final tally, I'd put £2.1m in and wonderfully, after asking others with deep pockets to join, they added £1.3m, all of which meant 415 small charities received an average of £8,000 each at speed.
For full details, including a breakdown of where the money went and how we decided, see my Covid poverty fund – where the money went blog.
NB: While the external donations technically went into my charity fund, so they could be shared and paid out, I haven't included them in my charity fund totals at the start of the article.
- Financial education in schools (including textbook): £1,752,000. 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, and we've done a number of projects...
- Funding My Money Week 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 of them to all English state schools (100 per school). Click for a free PDF download.
- To go with the textbook, funding a new teachers' digital e-learning pack to help teachers learn to teach it.
- The textbook's success means I'm delighted to say the UK's official Money and Pensions Service agreed to go halves with me on the additional costs to do textbooks for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with each of us putting in £162,000.
- Citizens Advice UK: £2m. Two £1m donations in 2012 and 2015 split across UK nations in proportion to population. I did this partly as I love Citizens Advice's voluntary ethos, but also to expose that debt-counselling funding had been cut by the Government in the recession.
With the second donation, I was delighted they used the money in England to set up the Martin Lewis Citizens Advice Fund (its choice of name, not mine), giving local branches innovation grants to develop new digital and other ways to reach and help more people – which hopefully has paid dividends during the pandemic.
- Trussell Trust financial triage: £600,000. The money was for the Trussell Trust to first pilot, then in 2015 roll out, putting financial triage in food banks (see this Trussell Trust release). Part of the idea was to see if the concept worked so that the food banks could then engage councils and other community stakeholders to do it everywhere. It did work.
- Grief Encounter (helpline): £206,000. Grief Encounter provides grief counselling and help for children who have lost a parent (or sibling). While I normally focus on charities within my expertise, as those who have heard/seen my 2018 Radio 5 Live interview will know, this is something that resonates with me.
I was already a patron of the charity when a couple of years ago they mentioned the idea of a helpline so children who were struggling had someone they could call. It struck a chord. I wished I'd had such a service, so I agreed immediately to fund setting it up and running a year.
As that year ended, Covid hit, demand went up, but funding opportunities elsewhere disappeared, so I agreed to fund a second year to keep it going.
- The MSE Charity: £364,000. This is the total of my personal donation(s) to the MSE Charity since 2012. I set the charity up in 2007 to give grants to small charities working in consumer education or financial empowerment.
This money is separate from MSE's (ie, my) donations before 2012 and MSE's (ie, Moneysupermarket Group's) donations since. In total, they add up to a further £1.15m (again this isn't included in my charity fund totals at the top, as it is from a different source).
- This one's a cheat. £3m to set up Citizens Advice Scams Action (not my money). In 2018, I started a campaigning lawsuit against Facebook for defamation after it kept publishing huge numbers of scam ads with my name and image in. In 2019, I dropped the case, and as part of the settlement it agreed to donate £3m to set up a new anti-scam wing of Citizens Advice, and launch a scam ad reporting tool unique to the UK. For more, see Martin Lewis in possibly record settlement with Facebook.
I'm delighted this year that we also succeeded in persuading/pushing the Government to change its mind and include scam ads in the Online Safety Bill.
NB: Clearly this Facebook money isn't included in the funds I've noted above, but in my head it fits within similar aims.
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 already stretched 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.
Where else money has gone...
- £110,000 to Demos to fund a digital democracy toolkit, to allow policy suggestions to be worked on with the general public rather than just policy wonks.
- £100,000 to Mind for mental health work.
- £100,000 to National Energy Action to fund a new web chat service in time for the 1 April 2022 54% price hike – in order to relieve pressure on its oversubscribed phone lines.
- £82,000 to the LSE mortgage prisoners report. I've long believed the 250,000 unjustly trapped in mortgages due to the financial crash needed help. So this is research work to provide policy solutions. I will be funding what I hope is the third and final report soon.
- £58,000 to the Support Through Court helpline. I'd been a patron of this charity which helps those having to represent themselves in the civil or family courts (due to terrible legal aid cuts). Then Covid hit and its helpline funding ran dry, so I stepped in to help for the year.
- £50,000 to Money Buddies, a Leeds-based financial help counselling charity.
- £39,000 to the John Schofield Trust to support mentoring, to improve the range of voices in my industry, broadcast journalism, so it's not just those who know someone who get the help.
- £35,000 to First Light Trust for financial triage and drug help for military veterans.
- £20,000 to the RNIB to support those who have just lost their sight to manage their financial lives.
- £16,000 to fund the Alzheimer's Society financial services charter.
- £10,000 to Winston's Wish to help children and young people who have lost a parent.
There are a substantial number of donations below £10,000 too, but I think that is a good cut-off point.
The (attempt at) logic behind these donations
A 'giving philosophy' has always sounded 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 MoneySavingExpert.com, while profit-making, has at its core a public service remit. Its primary job – which since 2012 has been codified and protected by our Editorial Code – is to provide information to cut people's bills and fight their corner.
Yet there are many people and sectors a website and broadcasting don't reach or help. So as due to MSE's success I'm lucky enough to have substantial charity funds, I want to fill in some of the gaps that it can't reach. Many of the donations try to do just that. For example...
- Citizens Advice, Money Buddies and National Energy Action give one-on-one help, which a website such as MSE can't do.
- MMHPI helps those with mental health issues, which can impair and impact people's ability to help themselves.
- Trussell Trust financial triage helps many who aren't online or don't access crucial information.
- Financial education is there to help prevent future problems.
- And in recent times, both due to coronavirus and the cost of living crisis, some donations have come on instinct, after sitting at my desk, in tears both of sadness and frustration when reading about an individual's plight and feeling impotent to help.
Of course some of the donations, such as those to the John Schofield Trust and Grief Encounter, are more personal, but overall I hope there is some cohesion to my giving.
Other charities I work with (often as a patron)
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 those charities I'm a patron of or ambassador for, which I haven't already mentioned.
- The Social Mobility Business Partnership, which gives children from underprivileged backgrounds access to professions and work experience so they're not disadvantaged.
- National Numeracy, to help improve functional numeracy.