Wednesday, 7 March 2007

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Monday, 5 March 2007

Two more things wrong with Pudsey

CHILDREN IN NEED WAS in trouble yesterday after the Mail on Sunday revealed that Sir Terry Wogan pockets over £1,000 an hour for hosting its appeal-night show.

The last time we criticized Pudsey, Sir Terry blasted that he knew the charity was 'scrupulous in all its dealings.' But that's not entirely true. Not only does Wogan's 'nominal' payment undermine the spirit of the appeal, but it also calls into question (again) CIN's commitment to transparency, in two ways.

Firstly, it clashes with the spirit of the law. Charity trustees - like Sir Terry - aren't allowed to receive payment for their services, but Wogan in effect is being handsomely compensated for hosting CIN's biggest fundraising bash. Technically, he's paid by the BBC - making it technically legal - but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Most importantly, though, there appears to be a discrepancy between what's in CIN's annual report and the secret documents obtained by the Mail. In his report, Pudsey states that

The BBC also provides other support to the Appeal that cannot be quantified (e.g. the preparation and broadcast of the annual Televised Appeal show) which has therefore been excluded from the Financial Statements.

But the new documents put a £1.2m price tag on the telly extravaganza - a figure Pudsey seems to deny exists.

What's going on? We don't know - but we'll be asking Pudsey's boss, David Ramsden, and his auditors, KPMG.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Moaning about moaning

CHARITIES SPEND A LOT of time complaining. Many of their gripes are justified. But some of the moans beggar belief.

A prime example is a lengthy report in today's Guardian. In it, many charity people are quoted bemoaning the way their work is reported in the media. More constructive types, including Alan Gosschalk of the ImpACT Coalition, argue that if only charities communicated their work more effectively, then these examples of negative reporting would diminish.

But it's not that simple. Sometimes charities behave badly and sometimes should be taken to task for it. But few charities will acknowledge this. There's an unspoken assumption that the ends justify the means - that charities can behave almost as they want, because the work they do is good.

I don't agree, and I think that the sooner charities acknowledge that they sometimes get things wrong, the better.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Dominant philanthropic genes

VISITORS TO TATE BRITAIN's Hogarth exhibition please note the beguiling similarity between the founder of the country's oldest children's charity, Coram Family, Captain Coram, and the founder of the successful modern children's charity, WhizzKidz, Mike Dickson:

Or is it just me?

Private detectives required

YOU'LL SPOT IN THE PAPERS TODAY the launch of the Fundraising Standard Board's "Fundraising Promise". Represented on charity adverts by the FSB tick (below), the Promise says it guarantees that charities won't treat you badly when you choose to give - and if they do, there's an official complaints procedure.

Fine, but we're finding it hard to get excited. The Promise is a voluntary scheme (in fact a reaction to government pressure), so far only about 200 charities - out of the 5000+ that count - have signed up. And you, the public, will have to police it.

What's more, the standards it guarantees have been watered down over the last few months to make them palatable to more charities, and the end result doesn't strike us as especially high. The 193 pages of detail are unhelpfully tucked away on the Institute of Fundraising website, and in language written for lawyers. And the sanctions they threaten are piffling; if a charity believed it could make an extra £20,000 out of a fundraising scheme that breaks a rule or two, it would probably risk the ultimate sanction of losing its membership.
Add to this the fact that adjudications over complaints are currently made by a board of charity and marketing types rather than people like you and me and it's clear that the Promise falls somewhat short of its, er, promise.

The most positive aspect of the Promise is that it shows that some charities do have professional fundraising standards - which most of the public don't know - and that it's deemed important enough to spend serious cash advertising the fact.
It's just a shame that the not-inconsiderable job of policing the Promise (meaning digesting and applying those codes of fundraising practise) now falls to us, the public. No-one else is going to do it for us. So if we don't complain, it won't mean a thing.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

"Oxfam didn't want my money"

OXFAM HAS BEEN TURNING down donations, according to an article in yesterday's Independent. In an indignant but naive opinion piece, a potential donor complains that his money wasn't deemed good enough.

What's going on? Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Oxfam is behaving entirely reasonably and the author has his knickers in a twist.

The donation offered would have included some money from big supermarkets. Oxfam is currently waging a campaign against Tesco. This was why the money was declined. In order to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, Oxfam had to say thanks, but no thanks.

Its boss, Barbara Stocking, explains, "It's never easy to turn money down, but when we do so it is because we believe we can do more good without it." I think that's a brave line to take, but one which most supporters will understand.

Moral of the story for donors with similarly grand plans? Do your research first.

Friday, 2 February 2007

The selfishness of chuggers

A CHARITY MUGGER WAS JUSTIFYING his line of work in Friday's Guardian. It raised my hackles.

The author argued that chuggers (aka 'face-to-face fundraisers') are a force for good. And insofar as they raise money for particular charities, they are.

But chuggers make people cross. Haranguing passers-by in the street or interrupting them at home is rude and inconsiderate. It just is, however worthy the motive.

This clearly doesn't bother the charities that employ them, and I'm told the monetary returns are good. But chuggers undeniably run the risk of alienating the public from the entire charitable sector.

Through chuggers, charities become associated with anti-social behaviour. That creates bad feeling and cynicism. And if anyone had the energy to research it, it wouldn't surprise me at all to find that (in a weird, Freakonomics kind of way), chuggers do the sector more harm than good. For every donation they receieve, many more people might be put off giving for good.