Martin Lewis Charity Fund Update 2024: What happened to my pledge to give £10m? (Spoiler: it's now £20m+)

A dozen years 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 a duty of transparency, every year or so I bash out a blog report to explain where I'm up to, and who's got what money.

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 for £10+/mth donations).
  • £10m from that CAF fund has been donated to specific charities (detailed below).
  • So that's total donations of £12m. Substantially more than the original £10m pledge.
  • The good news – there's still almost £9.2m left in the CAF fund. And delightfully, if you think all this doesn't add up, you're right. Primarily because the investments I put a chunk of the charity money in did well. Though in recent years, I've moved most to safer shores.
  • There's another £5m of donations on top. Below I also mention donations not included in the £10m original pledge (or the £11.4m above) as either they were separate, before the charity fund pledge, or not funded by me directly.

A virtuous spiral – the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

In recent years, with the exception of my Covid Poverty Fund, I've focused on long-standing projects, the biggest being the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) charity I founded in 2016 and still chair (alongside an increasingly impressive group of trustees). I have added £425,000 since the last blog, bringing the total to £4.3m.

The full-time team of 19 has massively outperformed, changing behaviours, actions and policy of the Government, regulators and individual firms.

To give you a flavour, that includes a policy, now widely taken up, to get firms to allow customers to block gambling on debit/credit cards, debt breathing space for those in NHS crisis care, and working to embed debt help in mental health counselling (see a full MMHPI impact report) as the two are often rigidly interlinked; help one, you help the other.

Yet as this is about charity funding, I thought some may be interested in a virtuous circle... when I set up MMHPI, I guaranteed core funding for the first five years (and have extended that since). So unlike many new charities, which have to focus on fundraising and survival, we had a laser-like focus on work and impact.

That clarity meant MMHPI performed exceptionally, and because grant-giving and large donors saw it was efficient, focused, financially stable and delivering, they started to offer us funds, usually unbidden, to do more research. So without us ever seriously resourcing fundraising, we were soon bringing extra money in.

Soon the rep was so strong, we were able to set up an audit arm, to go into big firms and audit how accessible they are for those with mental health, which both gets them to improve behaviour and, as we charge them, raises funds for core research.

This virtuous circle has continued, results begetting funding begetting results. It's only in the last couple of years we've finally plumped for a dedicated fundraising member of staff, just one (and we don't target raising money from the public), and this year the income will be over £1m, meaning wonderfully my core funding is now less than 50%.

My other key charity fund donations this year

Access to justice is so important for many families, the cuts in legal aid have left a terrible toll on many. So I've again donated £50,000 to the Support Through Court charity (that I'm a patron of) to keep its phone line running, sadly needed after public funding cuts.

And as an experiment, I've recently funded Young Money a further £50,000 to turn the free financial education textbook we did for schools into a free adult education textbook too. Hopefully I'll have more info on that soon.

Anyway, this is mainly a stats blog, so time for some numbers...

Where the money has gone so far... the big projects

  1. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute: £4.3M. I set up the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) charity in 2016 and still chair its impressive board of trustees.

    Its core job is to research and advocate non-partisan practical policy change at government, regulators and companies to break the toxic link between mental health issues and debt. (We need those with lived experience to help hone policies. Please do consider volunteering here.)

  2. 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 (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 to my charity fund, so they could be paid out, I haven't included them in the fund total at the blog's start.

  3. Financial education in schools (including textbook): £1.8m. Financial education has long been a campaigning priority for me. I worked with the Young Money charity (Pfeg as it was then) in our successful campaign to get financial education on the English national curriculum in 2014. So the charity seemed a natural partner, and I've funded a number of projects since...
    - 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.
    - Jointly with the UK's official Money and Pensions Service (it agreed to go halves with me on the additional costs to do further textbooks) for ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland, with each of us putting in £162,000.
    - To go with the textbook, funding a new teachers' digital e-learning pack to help teachers learn to teach it.
    - As noted above, I've also this year funded the charity to turn the children's financial education book into an adult learning textbook too.

  4. 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.

  5. Trussell Trust: £650,000. The bulk of this 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.

    Then for Christmas 2022, I also funded a straight £50,000 donation towards food poverty, in light of the terrible cost of living crisis.

  6. The MSE Charity: £410,000. 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 (not included in my charity fund totals at the top of the blog, as it's from a different source).

  7. 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 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.

  8. The mortgage prisoners campaign: £60,000. To write now three LSE mortgage prisoners reports, to provide policy solutions to help the 200,000 people unjustly, desperately and life-debilitatingly trapped in closed-book mortgages due to the financial crash. The last report was published in February 2023 and sent to the Government. We continue to push for justice for these people whose lives have been devastated, made even worse in the last year by the spike in interest rates.

  9. 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.

    Two years ago, I wrote: "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." Finally that bill is now in place, though sadly Ofcom's regulatory timetable indicates it'll probably be at least 18 months before we see any meaningful change on it – meanwhile, scam ads on Facebook and elsewhere with me and others in are still a daily, debilitating scourge.

    NB: For clarity, this Facebook money isn't included in my fund total at the top.

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, other projects...

  • £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.
  • £165,000 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.
  • £147,500 to Money Buddies, a Leeds-based financial help counselling charity.
  • £45,000 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 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.
  • £8,000 to CILIP to write and publish the A warm welcome: Setting up a warm space in your community report.

There are a substantial number of donations below £8,000 too, but I think that is a good cut-off point.

The (attempt at) logic behind these donations

A 'giving philosophy' at first sounded a bit pratty to me, but I've got used to it as 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 (since 2012, this has been codified and protected by our Editorial Code) is 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 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 offline without access to crucial information.
  • Financial education is there to help prevent future problems.
  • The LSE mortgage prisoner report is to help fund an overly complex fight for justice.
  • 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 donations, such as those to the John Schofield Trust and Grief Encounter, are more personal, but overall I hope there is a cohesion to my giving.

Other charities I work with (often as a patron)

As we're on the subject of charity, and 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.