As I always do around this time of year, I want to encourage everyone to donate to Child’s Play, the charity that shows the gaming community at its very best. Dozens of children’s hospitals worldwide (and now two in the UK) are signed up and you can donate games and toys that will make sick kids’ time in hospital that little bit more bearable. Last year I left it too late and nothing was left on the list for Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital so I donated to the Tulane Hospital for Children in New Orleans instead. Their thoughtful thank you note means this year I guess I’ll have to give to both. I’ve gone slightly off-piste by including copies of How To Train Your Dragon rather than just games, which means the kids will probably receive theirs before I do. This probably shouldn’t make me feel quite so jealous as it does.

I tend to use this time of year to reassess my regular donations to charity too (ideally in an upward direction). For those like me whose primary charitable contributions are sadly not in time but merely redistribution of wealth (my desired self-image as a sort of Robin Hood wielding a pen rather than a bow may not be wholly accurate), picking charities carefully is important, rather than knee-jerk responses to those who spend the most on advertising.

I want to highlight GuideStar UK, an organisation of which few seem to have heard, which provides a wealth of information on about 163,000 charities throughout England and Wales, including their financials. I was a fan of Intelligent Giving, which provided easy-to-understand analysis of charities based on size, salaries, quality of reporting, etc. Sadly the site closed following a merger with consultancy/think tank New Philanthropy Capital, and they seem more focused on consultancy to assist charities with their reporting. I hope to see them reopen something similar, but if anyone can suggest others analysing/rating charities in a similar way then I’d love to hear.

The only downside I’ve found is that it makes one more interested in checking the breakdown of how the money gets used and less likely to donate on the street, meaning you are actually likely to appear less charitable. But then appearance isn’t what it’s about, right?