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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Giving is an industry

Yesterday a bulky envelope came through the letterbox from the Red Cross. It contained a bookmark, two attractive looking cards, two coasters, and a pen. With these came an invitation to pay a monthly subscription to said charity. It prompted the urge to check out how much the whiz-kids who thought this would open my pockets were being paid. I went on the Red Cross website, clicked on FAQ’s and scrolled down to the relevant question:

How much of my donation is spent on your directors' salaries? 

But answer was there none. Instead we had gobbledegook :
Our directors' salaries form part of our administration costs and are not linked to your donation as they do not work on Performance Related Pay (i.e. their salaries are not a percentage of our income).
Followed by the familiar line:
Charities are complex organisations with the same need for professionalism and effective management structures as any other organisation in the private or public sector.You just know when you are being talked down to.

You had to search further for a straight answer. In 2010 Red Cross Salary costs including National Insurance and Pension commitments amounted to £69.6m. Its head honchos earned between £90,000 to £180,000. 

This is par for the course. Charity websites show salaries hovering between £50,000 and £80,000 with job descriptions such as ‘corporative development managers.’ 

Save the Children spent £88million on humanitarian assistance in 2009 and £58 million on staff wages. Child Poverty Action Group spent £1, 5551,000 of its income on alleviating child poverty and £1, 9990,000 on staff wages – though its chief executive came in a little less than the Red Cross’s at a measly £137,000.

But then charities like Save the Children can afford to be generous. The largest donor to this charity in 2009 was the Government, which gave £19million. The European Union and America contributed a further £22million between them.

This it seems is not enough. The Charity Aid’s Foundation (Which recently advertised the job of Head of Advisory and Consulting at a salary of £75,000) called for action to ensure that young people thought about giving. Its Chief executive John Low said:

“The young need to be taught about charities as part of the national curriculum.” This was in response to a report that older people give more to charities than the young. Mind you, it is this older generation that has benefited from cheap mortgages, the housing bubble, free education and who enjoyed early retirement on relatively generous pensions. Wecan afford to be generous. 

This, apparently, ‘meaner’ younger generation have student debts to pay off;  they’re exhorted to save for impossible mortgages as well as providing for their old age. Their taxes subsidise this charity and that, along with overseas development – and now the proposal that children have compulsory lessons on why they should give more. It’s all very reminiscent of ‘political apathy’ and for much the same reasons.


Maria Zannini said...

Oh, honey. You touched on one of my hot buttons.

I really hate contributing to big charities unless I can donate something that won't fill the CEO's coffers. Like blood, blankets, or my time.

My personal grumble is with United Way. Every year my company would bully us into donating a certain amount. I refused. Firstly, because I don't want anyone dictating to me what I should contribute. But mostly because a scandal came out where the president of UW was caught embezzling, yet no one thought this was a big deal (at the time).

Later, other scandals arose, each one bigger than the last. United Way is fighting hard to restore its reputation, but I washed my hands of them a long time ago.

If big charities want more money, then cap the incomes of CEOs. Get someone who believes in the cause instead of another talking suit.

It's pathetic to watch the tireless volunteers and staff work like dogs while upper management walks away with big salaries and retirement funds.

Misha Gerrick said...

Yeah.... there's something wrong about this. I mean sure, give a person a salary to compensate for the time spent on a charity, but we're talking about making the managers milionaires in my terms. (South African Rand = approx GBP12 = approx EUR10)

Mike Keyton said...

I've never heard of the 'United Way' Maria and both you and Misha make the same point: Idealism and a generous heart are an uneasy fit with corporative salaries.

Jay Paoloni said...

I never give my money to charities. I was very much aware that in the higher spheres, there's no difference between a charity and a corporate bank.
I'm more into environmentalist groups like Greenpeace, or aid organizations like Greenpeace. I used to support WWF, but it had its own scandals too. I stopped doing it when I found out that one of the presidents was an ex-hunter.
And I never, I say never give my money to religious organizations. Hell no!

Mike Keyton said...

The bottom line is that it's important to give. Ref religious organisations, you're right, choose carefully, though having said that some of them have the lowest overheads ie those run by generous and committed spirits.