7 Charities for Christmas Giving: Sir Alec Reed shares his choices.


In 2007, Sir Alec Reed, founder of one of the UK’s best known recruitment brands, REED, saw a huge gap in the philanthropic and giving landscape: the opportunity for small, medium and large donors to join together to meet a charity’s needs for a specific campaign. From this realisation, Sir Alec has spent more than a decade to make giving easier for all kinds of donors.

An early harnesser of technology solutions, Sir Alec’s response was The Big Give, a platform that enables charities to match the donations of individuals donors with funds offered by the Reed Foundation and other major donors. The mechanism leverages the funding that charities can raise at the same time as diversifying risk for donors, who benefit from the due diligence of larger funders. For those early on their philanthropic journey The Big Give offers a trusted gateway to giving.

Today, The Big Give has supported over 10,000 charities and has worked with some of the biggest names in UK philanthropy which have provided match funding including The Big Lottery Fund, Cabinet Office, People’s Postcode Lottery, ICAP TP, Candis Club Magazine, EQ Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Reed Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust, The Childhood Trust and others including high-net-worth individuals such as Julia and Hans Rausing.  In the last 13 years, The Big Give has helped raise over £135 million for good causes.

The Christmas Challenge is The Big Give’s annual flagship campaign and is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign. In 2019 the campaign raised £15.6 million.

This year, with the recent reductions in fundraising, event and trading income and concurrent increases in demand on charity’s services, Christmas fundraising campaigns will be a critical lifeline to many charities.

For 2020, over 750 charities across all cause areas have signed up the The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, exceeding 589 in 2019.  This Christmas, match funding is provided by a range of philanthropic organisations. Called ‘Champions’, these include the Reed Foundation, Julia and Hans Rausing, the EQ Foundation, Candis, The Childhood Trust, and The Coles-Medlock Foundation.

With so many vital causes in need of support, it’s harder than ever for first-time donors to identify where their money can make a difference. Giving an insight into his approach, Sir Alec is planning to support seven organisations this year.

HomelessnessChristmas in a notoriously difficult time for those who are homeless. Shelter estimates there are 280,000 homeless people in the UK. Their challenging situation has been exacerbated by Coronavirus and we will no doubt see that number rise as the economic consequences of the pandemic play out. Indeed, 81% of homeless and refuge charities have reported an increase in people seeking their assistance since Coronavirus.

Charity I will donate to: The Passage which is a stone’s throw from REED’s main office in Victoria and whose patron is HRH The Duke of Cambridge.

Cancer It’s well documented that those living with cancer have struggled to get access to services this year. Cancer charities have been the worst hit sector in terms of reduction in income with 4 out 5 cancer charities reporting reduced income. Having survived colon cancer, I can only imagine how difficult it is for those who need help but cannot get it.

Charity I will donate to: Cancer Research. To well and truly beat cancer we need well-funded research, Cancer Research is the world leader.

The Elderly At 86, I’m fortunate that I am surrounded by family and friends who I see regularly. Many older people are not so lucky. According to Age UK, more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. This is a problem which will only be made worse through the restrictions we currently face.

Charity I will donate to: English National Ballet. I am a huge fan of ballet. The English National Ballet runs an extraordinary project to reduce social isolation through virtual ballet classes for those with Parkinson’s and dementia.

Young People – When it comes to the economic impact that Coronavirus has wrought, young people have been adversely affected. Many young people face the prospect of joblessness, lack of opportunities and the mental health challenges which lack of employment brings. The Resolution Foundation recently revealed that 1 in 5 young people who were furloughed have lost their jobs. It’s integral we support this generation.

Charity I will donate to: The Prince’s Trust of which I am proud to be a patron. They have over 40 years’ experience of offering opportunities to young people across the UK.

The Environment – Whilst our attention has been rightly focused on combating Coronavirus this year, we shouldn’t forget that we face an arguably greater threat to humankind, climate change. Environmental charities have struggled to rise above the noise this year and need our continued support.

Charity I will donate to: Friends of the Earth which my foundation has supported for a number of years. They are experts in mobilising local climate action.

Women & Girls – Gender equality is an issue I care passionately about. I founded a charity in 1989 to champion women’s rights and ensure women help women. Whilst great progress has been made, we still have a long way to go!

Charity I will donate to: Womankind Worldwide the charity I founded which is working in a country I care passionately about, Ethiopia.

Small & Local Charities – Smaller charities are twice as more likely to have to close due to the loss of income caused by the pandemic. There are often incredible organisations right on our doorstep, helping our communities which don’t get the attention or recognition they deserve.  I encourage everyone to research charities local to them using platforms such as the Big Give.

Charity I will donate to: The Branch Trust, a charity close to my home in the Cotswolds which works with deprived families.