Isabella Beeton would be proud.

The book for which she is best known, The Book of Household Management, was not simply a Victorian version of Nigella Lawson or Gary Rhodes, but provided advice on the duties of the mistress of the household and in particular, how the middle-class woman in Victorian times was expected to use her own domestic skills for the benefit of the poor.

"Charity and benevolence are duties which a mistress owes to herself as well as to her fellow creatures; and there is scarcely any income so small but something may be spared from it, even if it be but 'the widows mite'," she wrote. The words seem quaint but the ethos today has become even more apparent.

Isabella Beeton strongly urged placing one's self in the services of others through charitable giving.

Earlier this year, the news was dominated by the Tsunami Appeal. For whatever reason, both the appeal and the tragic events that led to it, captured the nation's heart.

Within one month of the event on Boxing Day, the Disaster Emergency Committee had processed 350,000 postal donations and one million credit card donations. By mid-March - with the Tsunami Appeal firmly closed - £ 300 million had been donated via the Committee by the British public. A further £40 million had been contributed to its members.

It seems however, that those who believed the British had elevated themselves to new platforms of generosity, fell short of the mark. Indeed, some charities have said they have suffered as a result of donations being diverted to the Tsunami Appeal.

All of this is worrying to those of us who are involved, in one form or another, with charities.

It is a major concern to me, as vice- chairman of the Women's Campaign which is seeking to raise £1.5 million for Birmingham Women's Hospital.

But I have found a new wheeze. It is painless, simple and actually saves tax. What is more, it is perfectly legal.

The facts are these. Many people throughout the UK are shareholders - with relatively small shareholdings. Many investors would like to dispose of these small investments - but the costs of doing so are thought to be too high.

What is not widely known, which I have recently discovered for myself, is that it is possible for individuals and companies to receive tax relief on shares and other investments which they own which they give away to UK registered charities. A gift of shares is a very inexpensive act.

Indeed, on the gift to a charity, the individual will receive tax relief of up to 40 per cent of the value of the shares given away and for a company, relief at their Corporation Tax rate.

What is more, a gift of shares does not cause any capital gains tax liability as the gift is tax-free.

When I first heard of this, I thought there must be a catch but I can speak from experience.

All that needs to be done is to complete a stock transfer form, obtainable from the charity, the company registrars or from the internet.

This is then completed, sent with the appropriate share certificate direct to the charity - and bingo, the charity is quids in, the donor feels great and there are no more bits of paper flying around for relatively small denominations of money.

The individual or company will then include the gift in their tax return and claim the appropriate tax relief. Individuals can also request the Inland Revenue to amend their current year's PAYE tax coding.

What is more, the gift relief does not only apply to shares listed on the UK Stock Exchange but also to those on the listed Foreign Stock Exchanges and the investments in the unit trusts.

* Donations to the Women's Campaign can be made to: Jo Hodges, campaign manager, the Women's Campaign, Birmingham Women's Hospital, Birmingham B15 2TG.