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The Ethics Of Charity

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Charity is subjective. The Charity Commission Regulations Policy paper, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, aims to guide our perceptions of what a charity should and should not be and provide the “best possible regulations of charities” (The Charities Act 2011). With over 160,000 registered charities, the commission states that only “most” charities “must” register. In doing so the commission aims to increase effectiveness and public trust of the charity. As a general rule, all charities with an annual income exceeding £10,000 must provide the commission with their statistics and if any questionable acts are detected, the commission has the power to intervene. The Charities act is extensive and offers a general overview via their “what makes a charity guide” (published 1st September 2013) which provides information on what a Charity should and should not be:

  • Step 1: Deciding purpose
  • Step 2: Deciding if the purposes are for public benefit

To answer these questions the commission looks at a wide range of factual evidence supplied and assert that speculation and assertions are not sufficient evidence. If the requirements are met then a charity can be considered as registered under the Charity Commission. Whilst the commission incorporates an analysis of the purpose and benefit, the commission does not seem to have a clear regulation on individual actions with regard to Charity and seems only financially concerned. Yet the term “charity” is inclusive of both the charitable organisations, the beneficiaries and those who contribute to the well-being of the charity (either monetarily, through donation of their time or simply providing a charity with unwanted food, clothing and other miscellaneous items for the charity to sell for profit or to donate to those in genuine need directly). This is why a revised ethical theory is required alongside the law within the United Kingdom to ensure that modern charity is regulated on both a communal and individual level to ensure the most-good is achieved.

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Modern charity is capable of perpetuating positive communal goals, a stabilisation within society and a focus on human empathy to increase opportunities for those in genuine need and perpetuate reciprocal acts of kindness. By increasing communal aid, security and bonds, the corresponding force that acts of kindness produce effect the community on an individual level, by building trust through public relations. However, despite the clear benefits that charity has, there are still faults within the system. Namely that both the charities and the donators rarely set fourth an ethical evaluation of what a good act and good outcome is, and both are necessary charity to be considered both moral and good. Acts of kindness, although from good intentions, can produce “bad” outcomes. For example, donating money to a homeless individual, when in fact their situation is such due to a prior alcohol addiction which you have further funded. Similarly, a “good” outcome, or what is deemed to be the most good for the Charity can stem from a bad action. In an extreme case example, stealing money to provide for those in genuine need.

Unsavoury acts to maximise a favourable outcome, known as ‘Necessary Evils’, may negatively impact individuals and create further ethical problems. If, for example, the donation was stolen, the individual who has been subject to the criminal act is negatively impacted despite the good that may arise from the donation. This is why the law stands to prevent these offenses. This is not to say that necessary evils are always unethical however. Having a monetary advantage could be viewed as a necessary evil to make more money for a charity, especially if other charities do not have the same advantages. For example, Cancer research requires more donations as it aids a larger scale of people. Similarly, many donators favour a charity which may also be viewed as a necessary evil. Either because they have been directly affected by a charity themselves and feel they should “give back”, that the individual feels guilty that their life is privileged and without need for charity, or an indirect affect that an advertisement for a charity has had. This is only problematic if the individual feels that they must give back despite the individual not being able to afford to “give back”. This perpetuates the acknowledgement that “good acts” can have a negative impact. However, if the acts of kindness do not negatively impact any individual through the act or the consequences of the act, then it must be encouraged that no act of kindness are wasted. I aim to evaluate how necessary evils may work within “Good Charity” provided that they do not negatively impact individuals.

Lastly, there seems to be a stigma surrounding what to donate. That a monetary donation should be praised more than donating your time, unwanted belongings or being paid to work for a charity. Some may believe that donating £1 will have no effect. That it is an act of kindness that will not produce a maximally effective outcome. However, if everyone in the United Kingdom gave £1 to charity monthly, then the charity sector would earn £66.04m times twelve per year. Secondly, time is just as precious as money. Charities need volunteers to keep their administration costs as low as possible. Donating unwanted items is probably the easiest act of kindness, if you are in a position to do so, as it aids those in genuine need through something you are no longer in need of whilst also helping the environment. Lastly, employment through a charity should not go unrecognised as an act of kindness. Charity employment is a necessary evil as employers work towards a positive common goal whilst providing an income allowing the individual to donate if they choose to. Employers also supervise the advertisement and administrative costs that the charity requires to thrive. This is why “Good Charity” should encourage the notion that no acts of kindness are ever wasted.

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The Ethics Of Charity. (2021, September 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“The Ethics Of Charity.” Edubirdie, 13 Sept. 2021,
The Ethics Of Charity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2023].
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