How to give it: Ben Fogle

Ben Fogle, 38, is a television presenter, adventurer and writer. He supports many charities, including the disaster relief organisation ShelterBox (

What is the first charitable cause that made an impression on you?

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). I remember putting money in the old RNLI tins and being sent stickers by the WWF. Those tins and stickers had a lasting effect. I’m now an ambassador with the WWF and a supporter of the RNLI. A third charity when I was young was Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. It was set up by my father, who was a vet.

Which cause do you feel most strongly about now?

I get approached by charities daily. To avoid spreading myself too thin, there are five that I support regularly. Shelterbox is the first new one for a while. I learnt about them after the Haiti earthquake. They provide high-tech boxes containing everything you need after a disaster, from life-saving equipment to pots and pans and colouring books. The technology attracted me, as did the fact that they’re an English charity based in Plymouth using local volunteers.

How has your globe-trotting career affected your views on charity?

I appreciate that you can’t just throw money at problems. I’ve seen all different forms of aid and I’ve just read the fascinating book Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo, about the failures and negative effects of aid. So I’ve seen the positives and negatives charity can bring.

You’ve undertaken several adventures to raise sponsorship for charities, for example rowing the Atlantic. Was the motive adventure or altruism?

I think they go hand in hand. It only seems right to work to help others. If you’re rowing an ocean and you know that a huge amount of money will go to Children in Need and change lives for ever, it’s an extra motivational factor.

Has having children affected your views?

Yes. Previously I’d been very wildlife-focused but having children has made me aware of how lucky I am and how unlucky many other people are, especially children.

Why do you give to charity?

We have a responsibility to help one another. I’ve had an amazing career and amazing opportunities. Anyone in the public eye has a responsibility to give back and help others, be that trips around Great Ormond Street hospital putting smiles on kids’ faces or raising money through a big challenge. I also get huge satisfaction from it. You may be helping other people but you’re also helping yourself, and making yourself complete. You could call it selfish but I think a degree of self-satisfaction is acceptable.

Should we have an option to donate at cashpoints?

I don’t like hectoring people. I don’t like the clipboard people on the street. People need a chance to make their own decisions. So while the cashpoint idea is a clever one, I don’t think we can bombard people.

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