Charity Aftermath

It doesn’t take much to spot charity activity – the direction signs for events left around for a day or two after the weekend. The tell-tale signs were there today, on a short-ish ride taking in Henley and Maidenhead and the lanes thereabouts.

The charitable detritus, and the news today, prompted me to wonder whether charities merit the effort.

That’s a tough one to ask. A lot of people give a lot – time and effort – to fundraising, with the some of the most generous, noble intentions that humans are capable of. No-one should take anything away from that – least of all me.

The ‘however’ comes with the charities themselves. In the news today were reports about the Charities Commission warning that the high salaries being paid to charity bosses can bring ‘the wider charitable world into disrepute’.

Inevitably, the charities shelling out the big salaries defended their actions. What struck me as I read the reports and reactions were three things:

  • That there’s an Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO). That such an association should be necessary is a warning sign: the Chief Executives need a mouthpiece, someone to provide PR puffery, a media ‘turn-to’ spokesperson. I’m not sure they’d need it without having something to feel defensive about. (And who’s funding it? Where does that money ultimately come from?)
  • That the chairman of the ACEVO denies high salaries among charity bosses puts people off donating. (Let’s face it, the chairman of the ACEVO would say that.) That just doesn’t correlate with my experience – on the personal giving front, and amongst friends and family. Time and time again I hear of people re-focusing their giving on small, local and transparent / accountable charities, because they’re sick of their money going to ‘fat cats’.
  • That the fallacy of having to pay top money to get top people is repeated in a charitable context, without question, as it is in any other context. Plainly, there’s no logic to it. Some of the highest remunerated people in the Western World brought about the current recession. Top money buys people who are motivated by money. That doesn’t make them ‘good’ people by any worthwhile measure – it doesn’t mean they’re good at their jobs, good morally, good ethically, good professionally … it just means they think money is good, and that they’re worth lots of it. They can’t even understand that money will never buy happiness.

Perhaps the best thing to hope is that all the charity runners, cyclists and whatever else people get up to for ‘a good cause’ are discerning in their choice of good cause. The information is out there to enable us all to make sensible decisions; the onus is on us all to do the scrutiny.

The BBC on the issue of charity salaries.
The Independent on the same.
A nice piece on why money doesn’t buy happiness, and the associated articles are worth your time.