There are many who need charity and many who depend upon it. It would seem that poverty and the poor will be forever with us, such is the nature of our system. Charities are therefore a positive thing as anyone with a modest degree of humanity would not like to see others go without. It is a truism that everyone cannot be rich, nor can everyone be in good health; thus help is essential for those less fortunate than others.
However, what started as a philanthropic gesture has grown into a massive business. Some charities have an income that would far outstrip all but the largest conglomerates. Two examples should suffice as an illustration: Oxfam has an income of £385,500,000 that is one sizeable figure. They also employ 4,900 people. The employed figure is not so huge for such an organisation with such an income, until you add the 22,000 volunteers. Then you can start to appreciate that Oxfam is a very large company.
The other example is the’ Save The Children Fund’ with an annual income of £332,880.000 and employ around 5,000 workers. I am in total agreement with the sentiment of helping children. No child has a say in where or when they are born. Likewise s/he has no incline that they can become a burden. It does not matter whether born of love or lust, their future is our future too. Think of your own twilight years, of the society that would make you feel secure, the society that you want for your own offspring. That humane society, that vision, becomes severely blurred when a majority do not share your altruism.
Most people are aware via 24hr TV news stations, and the daily diet of crime reporting in our newspapers, that the disillusioned and disaffected and the pure evil find a means to survive, and we all suffer the vacuity of their activity. If charities can help some of these lost souls, then more power to their elbow.
That ends the sermon, lest we break into hymn.
I as other members of the public have been accosted on the street, had flyers through the door and had my emotions bombarded by TV advertisements to give a little and often. If I do give then I want to know where the money is going and how it is being used.
There is disquiet about the use of donations to charity. No doubt they do some good and are praiseworthy but other aspects may leave a sour taste in people’s mouth. Donors want to know that their contribution is being well spent, that it reaches the places that it should. A report by ’New Philanthropy Capital’ based on a survey of 3,000 donors highlighted, “The report has sparked fresh concern that charity leaders are failing to prove the effectiveness of their work.” (Guardian 14 March 2013) The illuminating phrase is the reference to, ‘fresh concern’ which suggests a long term failure.
As of December 2012, there are 162,915 charities in the UK with an income of £58.5 billion. Both these figures are immense. My first thought when I looked at the number of charities, was duplication. I dug a little deeper and found several examples were duplication was indeed the case, e.g. 23 different bodies for ‘autism’, eight within London. No disrespect to anyone involved in one of these charities but would it not make more economic sense to combine their effort. Harness the energy and knowledge rather than a disparate approach.
Likewise, with water in a number of African states. Some of the charities were very focussed in one area and their income reflected this. I don’t doubt they are doing some good, e.g. ‘Pipedreams’ in Tanzania and ‘IRWA’ in Sudan, but more could be done by linking up with a more substantial body and pressing their case.
I had to look twice at the total amount raised by the charities of £58.5bn. That is a staggering sum of money. Where does all the money go? It is more than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many countries. This is where doubt creeps in, because the advertisements are constant, news of more tragedy seems to be a more frequent alert nowadays. One is lead towards a conclusion of waste. Is there waste on a massive scale? Is corruption on a similar curve? The poverty, the need for aid does not diminish, it’s as constant as the sun in the Sahara desert.
Transparency is a buzz word at the moment and I thoroughly recommend the charities to adopt it as a philosophy. Scepticism is almost a tangible force and will only grow stronger with a current debate on International Aid and the 0.7% of UK GDP being earmarked to be spent on aid. That constitutes a lot of dosh to spend abroad at a time of hardship at home. Joe Public, is finding a bitter winter compounded by a freeze on income a huge burden.
Moreover, it is well documented that corruption in sub-Sahara Africa is almost endemic. Another concern is that anecdotal tales are being adopted as truth and thus shift the balance of public opinion. Transparency, well presented, not spin, can act as a George, with a mighty sword, to slay that particular dragon.
Are we being duped? Are large amounts of money being siphoned off to corruption? Is
the cost of feeding the desperate made exorbitant by the need to give backhanders? Have the charities created a monster that now consumes a large sackful of their intended gift to the people? May be it is time to think outside the box and find a way around the corruption or has corruption become too entrenched.
Above are classic examples of the sentiments often mentioned by people. If they are true or false then transparency would open the eyes of the public as well as the leaders of the charities. A powerful reason for opening the books stems from the fact that personal donors are triple givers. The large charities get money from the government as well as funding from the European Union (EU). As that money comes from taxation, then those who make a personal contribution are forking out thrice. Now I think that deserves an explanation.
I have mentioned ‘duplication’ of several charities focussed on the same objective and therefore dissipating their economic muscle, the same can be true in terms of administrative costs. E.g. location costs, warehouse, transportation, field workers, not to mention the over paid executives. It seems that the higher echelons of our society view charities as a sound place to work.
Do they really need plush offices in London? Surely with new technology; iPhone, internet, conference calls, faxes, etc., location becomes a matter of choice.
The Charity Commission (.gov.uk) in November 2012 urged the charities to, “be good, as well as do good.” Moreover, the New Philanthropy Capital survey suggests that a more open format by the charities would bring considerable benefits in contributions. Let’s put it into practice.