Supporting charities is a good thing. Charities rely on donations to provide their essential services, and the altruistic act of giving is proven to be a good thing for the donators health and wellbeing.
But before you give money to a charity I think you need to think about 2 things:
- What exactly will the charity do with your money?
- Why did you think of that particular charity?
One of my first reactions to the Jimmy Savile revelations was to send money to a charity supporting children to try and redress the cosmic balance a little. The first charity that came to mind was Childline, so I went to their website which suggested I couldn’t give to them directly and directed me to the NSPCC website. So thinking I might donate to the NSPCC instead I did some research into what they do. While they undoubtedly do some fantastic work, I found some things which made me think twice (I expect these apply to some other big charities too):
- NSPCC is the main funder of Childline. Childline gets up to 4,500 calls a day but only 2,500 of these are answered. NSPCC has revenues in excess of £112m. Childline needs £26m a year to maintain its service standard. The NSPCC has not prioritised funds to Childline – its funding decisions led to a cut in Childline staffing in 2011.
- I then discovered that you actually could give to Childline direct. Why did the Childline site direct you to the NSPCC? Had the NSPCC as the main funders of Childline instructed Childline to do this? Maybe not, but I felt a little misled.
- According to the NSPCC accounts, 19% of NSPCC revenue is spent on “generating income”. It seems fair that money is spent on running the processes to collect donations but I don’t think that any money should be spent cold calling people, harassing them in the street and making them feel guilty as a means to extract money. Making people think is good. Making them feel guilty is not. Is it accurate to say “Every penny you give helps children who desperately need support and protection” as the NSPCC do on their website?
- The bulk of the NSPCC’s income (around £112m) goes on “activities to end cruelty to children”. But while a lot of this is spent on fantastic work supporting children and families, a large amount is spent on advertising campaigns which I don’t think are effective. Of course I want to stop cruelty, but how exactly is wearing a pin badge going to do that? Why is the NSPCC trying to make people feel guilty? Child abusers usually feel guilty already. Many Mumsnetters have similar concerns.
- And then there’s their lobbying work to stop fathers having an automatic right to see their children following a separation – why would I want my money being spent on that?
When I thought about why I’d thought of the NSPCC, I realised it was probably because they had spent the most on self-promotion. They have the biggest brand, along with Childline, who they have absorbed. And when I dug a little a deeper I realised there were a number of charities who did spend all their money on providing support services, such as the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. Maybe my money would be better donated to them? Or directly to Childline?
I’m not totally anti-NSPCC. The scientific evidence demonstrates that paedophiles do need taking off the streets – so I support the NSPCC’s stance on mandatory and tougher sentencing for example. But my point is that people should think before they donate. Read the charity’s website and annual report. Look them up on Wikipedia. See what’s being said on the forums. Research what other charities there are tackling the issues you care about, particularly local charities where your donation will have a bigger impact in your community.
PS interesting Guardian article here about traditional fundraising becoming outdated.
PPS did you know that poorer people give 3% of their incomes whereas richer people only give 1% of theirs?
Comments gratefully received.