Friday, November 05, 2010

Canadian couple give away lottery winnings

Why is this such an extraordinary story? Why doesn't this happen every week?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

We have moved

Quite some time ago actually, but we just want to make it obvious to new visitors to this blog.

Please see our latest thinking about the UK charity world at Intelligent Giving.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Olympics costs spiral - as predicted

Over a year and a half ago I pointed out that this would happen (with advice from a few seers - see the original blog entry) and things have actually got worse than expected.

There's talk of the Big Lottery Fund being raided because the initial estimate of £2.38bn has now catapulted to almost £10bn. Despite building plans being downsized.

And charities will suffer. Like I said. More at the Intelligentgiving blog.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fat cat charity salaries

A few comparisons at to dispel the myth that charity bosses get enormous salaries: Chelsea FC and Save the Children have the same annual turnover but Jose Mourinho trousered £5.1 million in 2004 while Save the Children's boss got £95,300...
read more digg story

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Gongs for charity

The New Year's Honours List (Wikipedia definition) was published this morning. I started listing all the awards to do with charitable works then realised it would take me all morning - which in itself was a heartening discovery.

Here are the most obvious ones (the entire list, with many more, is here). Does anyone know which are definitely deserved... or not?
  • George Gordon EDINGTON - Chair, N.C.H. For services to Children.
  • Brigid, Lady CROFTON - Lately Trustee and Vice-Chair, UNICEF UK. For services to Children and Families Overseas.
  • The Reverend Canon Patricia Anne ATKINSON - For services to Street Children in South
  • Mary Elizabeth, Mrs MARSH - Director and Chief Executive, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. For services to Families and Children
  • Ms Nina Lizette BAROUGH - Founder and Chief Executive, Walk the Walk Worldwide (Breast Cancer Charity). For services to Healthcare.
  • Michael David William GOOLEY - Chair, Trailfinders Travel Agency. For services to the Travel Industry and to Charity.
  • Robert Lawrence BANNER - Chair, Rethink Charity. For services to Mental Health.
  • Jennifer Susan, Mrs BYERS - Lately Executive Director, Donor Services, Charities Aid Foundation. For services to Charity.
  • Garth Michael GUTHRIE - For services to Charity.
  • Dr David Gerald HESSAYON - For services to Gardening and to Charity.
  • Joseph LISTON - Chief Executive, Jersey Electricity Company. For services to the Electrical Industry and to Charity.
  • Alan David BLAIR - Chief Executive, Wessex Heartbeat Charity. For charitable services in Hampshire.
  • Irene Helen, Mrs CALLAGHAN - For services to Nursing and to Charity in Angus.
  • Paul John FLETCHER - For services to Sport and to Charity.
  • Ms June Kunadu SARPONG - For services to Broadcasting and to Charity.
  • Leslie VINCE - For services to the Marfan Trust Charity.
  • Patricia Eleanor, Mrs WALLS - Chair, Cats Protection Charity. For services to Animal Welfare.
  • William Hugh YATES - Lately Deputy Chair, Suzy Lamplugh Trust. For services to Charity.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Admin costs are dead

From today's Intelligent Giving blog:

"ADMIN COSTS ARE DEAD. With the new accounting system recommended by the Charity Commission ("SORP 2005"), which nearly all charities are now observing, it is now impossible to work them out - and we will drop them from our site in the New Year.

The change represents an over-reaction (presumably an uncontested one) by the voluntary sector's lobbyists. Clearly the public wasn't consulted about the new SORP; but the public wants at least *some* clue of how much is spent on support costs. Now it is not being told anything meaningful. Too misleading. You wouldn't understand. Forget it.

It's a pyrrhic victory and a big shame: it won't increase the public's confidence in charities; it will just make people more suspicious."

If you subscribe to this blog you should also subscribe to the Intelligent Giving blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Intelligent Giving is live...

...and it's big and it's pretty clever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Admin costs, again

As I suspected: charities' administration costs generally bear no relation to reality. More at the Charity Sleuths

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

From earthquakes to 9/11

My opinion on your money being siphoned off to Hamas or to 'terror cells' is simple:
  • Giving money to international aid is always risky.
  • Not all the money will get there, you can be certain of that.
  • Not all of it will go where you'd expect it to go - you can be almost as certain of that.
  • But when it gets to the right place and is used in the right way it makes a big difference.
I'd also make the point that the charities alleged to have helped terrorist organisations are not big players and you are highly unlikely to have given them money: Interpal is small by aid agency standards (£3m expenditure) and Crescent Relief is miniscule (£70,000). Your only involvement is that your taxes subsidised them fractionally.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A serious charity challenge

I get occasional emails from folk doing mad things for charity, asking to be featured here.

But I'm afraid they are all gazumped by Jean Béliveau whom I met in Malawi two years ago. He is taking 12 years to walk around the world (yep) with the simple aim of promoting the UN proclamation of the "International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World".

He's a tad eccentric, obviously, but also a rare, inspirational man.

He gave his wife two weeks' notice that he was going to do it. But she has stayed with him (in spirit, in their home in Quebec) and updates his website for him.

Having walked the length of Africa, Spain, France and Ireland since I met him, he's just arrived in the north of England, which marks his halfway point and I hope to meet him again when he arrives in London in a few weeks' time.

His view on the real Africa - where, as everywhere, he relied on the generosity of locals for his food and shelter - is the best informed and most thoughtful I have heard. He also knows a lot about boots.

See his progress here.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Charity Blogger is resting

For more frequent, voluminous and informed comment, please visit my chums at the Intelligent Giving blog.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Darfur adrenalin

When I first heard of another online video game that teaches children (and the rest of us) about international aid, I expected the same worthy lesson in logistics as the UN's FoodForce.

However the first stage of "Darfur is Dying" reminded me of my first foray into Duke Nuke 'Em (ahem) , frantically tapping my arrow keys to guide my 12 year-old out of the reach of Janjaweed Landcruisers. This one will capture kids' (and your) imagination and educate them about what's really happening. Start here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Over-the-top and over here

American-style conspicuous giving finally arrived in the UK on 5 May this year. Apologies for taking so long to find out.

The country saw the first jetset-class charity auction to rake in serious money, in the same way that charity auctions around the US regularly bring in millions, with the compère haranguing tables of millionaires for not giving enough (though I can't find out if the latter actually happened at this event).

The event opened with the appearance of the Sultan’s Elephant, apparently. I think that's a living, breathing elephant though I can't be sure. It was closed by Sir Elton John; we aren't told how.

Prizes included a guitar lesson with Chris Martin followed by dinner with his actress wife Gwyneth Paltrow (pulling in £140,000), a yoga session with Sting and a Damien Hurst painting. Bill Clinton sent a personal letter of endorsement to everyone on a somewhat exclusive guest list.

It raised £18.4 million - all of which went to the brisk, businesslike and I suspect very productive Absolute Return for Kids.

More from The Times on this event and the new philanthropists.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another tsunami

I read about the tsunami a good half hour before the BBC got to it. The site to watch is GlobalVoices which aggregates blogs from around the world. For first-hand accounts it can rarely be beaten.

Here's hoping the Pangandaran beach tsunami is as small as the name suggests.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pillow talk

Ever wondered why journalists don't name names when things go wrong in disaster relief? I found out yesterday at an event for journalists and aid agencies sponsored by Alertnet.

Daily Mail veteran hack Ann Leslie summed it up (to a sea of nodding heads): "Smaller agencies can be quite corrupt. But they've got the Jeep, they've got the plane, they've got the access - and we need them!"

And so the hacks don't expose them. It's as simple as that. She tried to temper it with, "Of course there's a cosy relationship but we don't just repeat what we've been told!" But I think that made it worse.

Now you know.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Why bother?

Help me. I'm trying to come up with facts to persuade the naysayers to give to charity. I'm thinking of people whose eyes roll heavenwards when they hear, 'charity', and who dismiss givers as naive or stupid.

I have come up with nine lines so far. As many as possible are predicated on the fact that self-interest is the best motivator (and that no-one likes to be preached at). Please offer up your reaction/suggestions.

1. It's good for us
All research on happiness comes to the same conclusion: the more we look outside of ourselves, the happier we get. I'd imagine giving to others is a good sign of looking outwards.

2. You'll be more popular (probably)
Research on schoolchildren shows that the ones who help charities are more popular, happier and more respected by their peers. Do you think the same might apply to adults?

3. We're lucky...
We are the lucky country: democracy, peace, sun & showers, plasma TVs, no malaria/ lions/ scorpions/ earthquakes/ hurricanes/ volcanoes, all protected by a moat. Britain is extraordinary and it's not through any effort of our own. We have lucked out.

4. ...but not all of us
Most of us don't see a fraction of the problems in this country (and who'd want to?). But many problems are there and occasionally they'll prick your bubble. Gruelling statistics are available but if you don't have the appetite, believe it: there's plenty to fix.

5. As for other countries...
If you go to a poor country you'll meet people with genius in their eyes but you'll know they will stay poor because they cannot possibly escape their situation. Then you'll realise it's not simply your brilliance that explains your nice lifestyle (see 3).

6. Others have paid for us
Great Uncle Cyril and his great uncles shelled out to create wonderful things we take for granted. Apart from hospices, helplines and scanners, this includes life-changing laws (equal rights, free education and healthcare) which charities lobbied for. What wonderful things shall we leave behind?

7. It works
If charities weren't around, government and business would forget about social needs, the arts would collapse, and young, old, poor, bullied and disabled people would have a very grim time indeed. Charities provide a third of all social services in the UK. The money clearly makes a difference.

8. We're freeloading
If you have cycled anywhere, been to the theatre, enjoyed a view, been to hospital... a charity has almost certainly paid to improve your experience. Fair dues?

9. You'll be joining everyone else
The most conservative statistics say 65% of Brits give to charity but most put it nearer to 85%. So if you don't give you're in a pretty tight, I mean small, minority.

Naive, stupid, moi?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Medicine for the soul

This blogger's entry is too good to rewrite (though I've shortened it). Take it away, Albert:

Enrique’s Journey recounts the odyssey of a young boy who travels from Honduras, clinging to the tops and sides of freight trains, to reconnect with his mother in the United States.

The tops of the boxcars are controlled by gangsters. Bandits rob and sometimes kill the children.

Yet it’s common for the people who live along the tracks to throw small bundles to the migrants as they pass:

'Families throw sweaters, tortillas, bread, and plastic bottles filled with lemonade. A baker, his hands coated with flour, throws his extra loaves. A seamstress throws bags filled with sandwiches. A teenager throws bananas. A carpenter throws bean burritos. A store owner throws animal crackers, day-old pastries, and half-liter bottles of water. People who have watched migrants fall off the train from exhaustion bring plastic jugs filled with Coca-Cola or coffee.

'… A stooped woman, María Luisa Mora Martín, more than 100 years old, who was reduced to eating the bark of her plantain tree during the Mexican Revolution, forces her knotted hands to fill bags with tortillas, beans, and salsa so her daughter, Soledad Vásquez, 70, can run down a rocky slope and heave them onto a train.'"

More inspiration in humanity at White Courtesy Telephone aka the American Charity Blogger.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Teaching kids to give

Lumbered as we are with The Citizenship Curriculum which was voted last year as "the worst taught curriculum", methinks this country's schools need inspiration.

I'd like to suggest some. Here's a simple and smart idea from Canada:
  1. Teenagers in a school are divided into groups
  2. Each group researches the most pressing needs in their community
  3. They then search out the charities catering to those needs
  4. Each group then argues its case for the primacy of the need and the charity
  5. The winning group's charity is given $5000
Educative, absorbing, inspirational. It's called the "Youth and Philanthropy Initiative", created and financed by the Toskan Foundation and I hope we see something like it here soon. Any takers?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fewer choices - better results?

Someone has at last had the sense to apply psychology - specifically a controversial social psychologist - to help people choose a charity. The result is at Guidestar's shiny new Giving Formula.

Instead of offering a list of all (20?) types of charity, there's a simple four-way split between "Personal", "Emotional", "Social" and "Environmental".

The truth is that those aren't the right four words to describe what they represent (a spot of user research could fix that), but what I like is the fact that they are meta-categories, namely: health & medical; arts & music; poverty & rights; environment & animals.

Guidestar is challenging the common assumption that most donors know precisely which cause they want to support. Trying to distil their choices into four high-level groups is a canny step forward. The Formula is not perfect, but I like what it's trying to do.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Big Money

A good thing about rich people is that they tend to be competitive. Which is why they're rich and why, in America, they're generous. Let me digress for a moment: in America, people don't think about whether or not to give. They just give. Everyone does. And they compete over it.

So unless the Ukraine/Switzerland match paralysed some key cognitive parts of your brain (understandable) you'll have seen that a famously rich yet frugal man has given 85% of his fortune away, most of it to the genuinely progressive Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

An indication of the clout of his £20 billion: it would keep the UN going for the next 10 years.

Also today it was announced that a wealthy 39-year-old Brit is responsible for the most generous grant-giving organisation in the UK. Apparently he set up his hedge fund to give half of its annual assets to children's charities in order to motivate himself.

Will such announcements start a trend? Simon Jenkins thinks so, and is well worth reading.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

New boss rocks up

I know for most people the Charity Commission is some funny government department that, um, has something to do with charities.

This lack of knowledge is understandable because anything to do with government is, by definition, boring. But as it happens, the Commission is less boring than most government bodies because, a, it's allegedly independent from government but dependent on it for funding and, b, it allegedly has the role of policing charities but also of helping them. Strange animal.

The important news this week is that it has a new Chair.

The last Charity Commission Chair was very dynamic and was starting to shake the place up. The new one, I am told by someone who knows her, is equally energetic, open to new ideas and apparently bloody smart. What's more, she sounds like a rock star: Suzi Leather.

If she lives up to her name, the Commission may develop a stronger role and may - who knows - make charities more effective. Watch this space.

Click here for Ms Leather's biography

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bargain of the year

A friend boasted to me that on Wednesday he made a 250% profit on a £100 investment.

At a Funding Network event (see earlier post) he pledged £100 to an organisation which reprieves traumatised asylum-seekers from their medieval detention centres (details at BID).

Within minutes of the pledge, a mystery gentleman announced he'd match all the donations pledged so far. Clearly not a Daily Mail reader. So my friend's gift was doubled, as was the attendant Gift Aid (£28 x 2)*.

Can anyone beat that? Does this kind of thing happen anywhere else?

*The Funding Network takes a modest cut - around 4% - for administration.