Posts tagged ‘fake-charity’

Oxfam: Fake Charity

According to their 2012/13 accounts, Oxfam’s income for the year was £367.9m, down from £385.5m in 2011/12 (a decline of just over 4.5%).

Of this, £162.1m (44.1%) came from government, institutional donors and other public authorities. This is up from £159.8m (41.5%) in the previous financial year (an increase of almost 1.5%). In the same period the voluntary income declined by 14% from £127.7m to £111.5m.

The breakdown of income from government, institutional donors and other public authorities is listed on page 55 of the report. I have reproduced it here:

Income from government, institutional donors and other public authorities
Year to
31 March 2012
£m
Year to
31 March 2013
£m
159.8 162.1
Governments* 41.4 46.7
Multilateral organisations** 72.2 78.7
Oxfam Affiliates*** 31.6 21.2
International foundations, grant makers and other donors 14.6 15.5
*Governments
Year to
31 March 2013
£’000
57,909
Austria 284
Canada 42
Denmark 1,461
Ireland 806
Kenya 21
Netherlands 1,444
New Zealand 445
Nigeria 44
Norway 471
Sweden 9,458
Switzerland 2,339
United Kingdom 38,262
United States 2,832

£11.2m of income from governments is reflected as voluntary income (Note 2a), in respect of the DFID PPA, and £46.7m as income from charitable activities (Note 2d).

**Multilateral organisations
Year to
31 March 2013
£’000
78,671
European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) 35,175
European Commission Directorate General for Development and Cooperation (EuropeAid) 12,936
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) 31
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 143
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 8,114
United Nations Democracy Fund 999
United Nations Development Programme 3,187
United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) 374
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 7,875
United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 2,546
United Nations Office for Project Services 844
United Nations Population Fund 65
United Nations Women 23
United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) 5,253
United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) 197
World Bank 909
***Oxfam affiliates
Year to
31 March 2013
£’000
21,193
Oxfam America 1,459
Oxfam Australia 5,600
Solidarité (Oxfam in Belgium) 130
Oxfam Canada 2,450
Oxfam France 257
Oxfam Germany 649
Oxfam Hong Kong 1,527
Intermón Oxfam 295
Oxfam International 86
Oxfam Ireland 2,779
Oxfam Japan 39
Oxfam Mexico 17
Oxfam New Zealand (7)
Oxfam Novib 5,457
Oxfam Quebec 455

The prosecution rests, M’Lud.

Alcohol Concern: Still a fake charity

The new year brings with it the plaintive sound of the begging bowl being rattled once again by fake-charity Alcohol Concern in the form of Dry January.

Personally I have no plans to ever stop drinking for an entire month if I can avoid it so will instead be an enthusiastic participant of Drinkuary. No doubt the beer and wine I picked up from Waitrose on Monday will come in handy!

Given that the temperance lobby are going to be all over sections of the media like a cheap suit, it would seem like a good time to take a look at the 2013 accounts for Alcohol Concern – conveniently filed with the Charity Commission barely three weeks ago.

Alcohol Concern’s total income for the year ending 31st March 2013 was £1,028,828. This breaks down into £765,890 in voluntary income (grants, donations etc), £260,449 from operating activities (consultancy, training etc) and £489 in interest.¹

The voluntary income is, as always, the interesting bit. In the 2012/13 financial year Alcohol Concern received grants from the following:²

Name (£) Amount
Welsh Assembly Government 225,626
Department for Education (DfE) 222,298
Comic Relief 106,398
Tudor Trust 50,000
Esmee Fairburn 40,000
Trust for London 29,976

That’s a total of £674,298 from third-party organisations (2 governmental, 4 charitable) and only £91,592 in ‘Donations & Sundry Receipts’. In percentage terms:

Grouping Amount (£) % of Voluntary Income % of All Income
Totals: 765,890 100 74.44
Governmental 447,924 58.48 43.54
Other Charities* 226,374 29.56 22.00
Donations 91,592 11.96 8.90

43.54% of all of Alcohol Concern’s income is provided to them by thee and I via the taxes the government levies on us for having the temerity to earn a living and consume things. Less than 9% of their income comes via ‘Donations & Sundry Receipts’ – for which no further breakdown is provided so it may hide a multitude of sins.

Alcohol Concern still fit the Devil’s definition of a fake-charity, me thinks.

¹ Page 15
² Page 18
* Investigation of the finances of these charities to determine how much of their income is via the taxpayer is required.

Drink-uary!

The revelry is over, the new year finally under way, the hangovers dealt with and the time to reel in the drinking has arrived (although, obviously not, if you have a public holiday on Jan 2nd to get over the 1st).

But wait, what horror this way comes? Ah, I see it now… it is a cash-strapped fake-charity frantically tying to hitch themselves to the bandwagon of the post-festive drying out period in an attempt to raising money to keep themselves on the hamster-wheel of puritanical lobbying.

For those who are, about now, wondering if I wrote this whilst slowly pickling myself in a large vat of Christmas sherry I shall explain.

In October 2011, Alcohol Concern (the aforementioned fake-charity), lost a lot of their funding after the government decided not to give them any more money stolen from the taxpayer. Whilst for many of us this is a cause for celebration and much merriment, Alcohol Concern weren’t too amused.

Desperate to raise some cash in order to continue to pump out dodgy statistics and lobby ministers and civil serpents in the Department of Health, our penniless puritans came up with what they must have thought was a great wheeze: a sponsored Dry January. What could be more fun than staying off of the sauce and raising money for an organisation which exists simply to hector you about your drinking? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously.

The forces of light are not, thankfully, letting this pass uncontested and by the good offices of Anonymong we have a more useful January idea: Drinkuary.

Drinkuary is a quiet counter argument to Alcohol Concern’s “Dry January”. Alcohol Concern want you to not have a drink for the whole month and raise money for them whilst you do so, I don’t care one way or another if you drink or not. I do care that tax funded charities and health organisations feel compelled to tell us how to live our lives.

Although the whole shebang is now under way there is an “official” launch party this coming Sunday (January 6th) at The Silver Cross, 33 Whitehall, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2BX from 1400.

MG will be in attendance and no doubt a number of fellow bloggers will be there for a lemonade or two.

A half-formed Gift Aid thought

Browsing through the letters page of yesterday’s Telegraph (generally the third – and last – useful thing in the paper after Matt and Alex) whilst at my parents for dinner, I came across this:

SIR – If the Government is considering backtracking on its proposed cap to tax relief for higher-rate taxpayers who donate to charity, it will lose what little credibility remains.

Gift Aid is morally dubious. By what right am I forced to donate my taxes to a charity which I might disagree with?

George Osborne, the Chancellor, should show courage in facing down the pressure groups that represent these charities.

Joseph Adam-Smith
Patna, Ayrshire

Little comment is required about the first paragraph except to note that I’m fairly certain that the credibility of this government has already long since disappeared.

It was the second paragraph though which caught my attention. Whilst Mr Adam-Smith is quite right to point out that, with Gift Aid, some money is more then likely to go to causes which he might not agree with, he doesn’t appear to have followed this thought through to its logic conclusion.

Anyone familiar with the fake charities concept will already know that millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money has been shovelled into the hands of groups such as ASH, Alcohol Concern, CASH (amongst others) which do nothing but lobby the government on ‘our’ behalf.

All of which though is peanuts compared to the amount of money which the government steals from us each year in order to fund its own bloated existence. If Mr Adam-Smith can’t find something in that to complain about I would be very surprised.

Thus he would, I feel, be far better off worrying about the approximately £750bn elephant standing on his chest rather than the £1bn spider riding on the elephant’s shoulder.

Alcohol silliness in Scotland

Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will be, from Saturday, dealing with the law of unexpected consequences with respect of their changes last year to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. The Alcohol Bill 2010 was aimed at banning the selling of alcoholic drinks at a discount and restricting alcohol advertising.

However, because it only applies in Scotland, online orders from companies who distribute from England are unaffected. One company who are therefore taking advantage of this is everyone’s favourite supermarket bogeyman, Tesco, who have sent out a marketing e-mail to customers saying:

“Great news! All orders placed at TescoWine by the case will still qualify for these discounts when applicable as your wine is dispatched to you from our distribution centre in Daventry, England.”

No doubt other supermarkets and online wine retailers will follow that lead, if they have not done so already.

Predictably the nu-puritans don’t like this with Jennifer Curran, from the fake charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, saying:

“Tesco’s move, which encourages the bulk-buying of alcohol, flies in the face of its claims to be a responsible retailer. This is a blatant attempt to get round the law.”

Blatant it might be but if your politicans are going to pass a law with such an obvious loophole then expect it to be used. Tesco are providing the method, the market will decide if it is worth their while or not.

The politicans also aren’t happy about it. A government spokesman said:

“Internet sales represent only a very small proportion of the alcohol sold in Scotland, but it is an area that we watch closely to see if further action is necessary.”

What further action you blithering morons? Do you seriously think you can stop this sort of thing from happening? If so, how? More regulation, perhaps this time concerning purchasing alcohol from other countries? Searching vehicles as they cross the border from England?

Answers on a postcard please to Alex Salmond…

Charity begins at…? Part 3

Back in December 2010 I was somewhat scathing about the Government’s Green Paper on ‘Giving’ so seeing that the White Paper has now been published I thought I’d cast my eye over it and see what – if anything – has changed in the intervening 21 weeks and 5 days.

The document opens with the two ministers in charge of the ‘Big Society’ initiative – Francis Maude and Nick Hurd – saying that the British give more than £10bn (or approximately £160 a person) each year to charities. I shall, for the moment, assume that they mean voluntary donations and that said amount doesn’t include all the money given to fake charities by the taxpayer involuntarily.

If the public give so much to charity on an annual basis, then you might be forgiven for wondering why exactly the government feels the need get itself involved. Don’t worry you aren’t alone as your host is wondering exactly the same thing. Our ministers, without a sense of irony, attempt to explain:

Despite a long history of government interventions, the giving of both time and money has flat-lined, and some in the voluntary sector warn of decline. […] We believe we can help to change this. Our ambition is to stimulate a step change in giving. This is a long-term project which requires a new approach that learns lessons from the past. Government needs to work more closely with business and charities.

I suppose it is too much to hope, having spotted that previous government interventions haven’t apparently helped, that the option of less government intervention was even considered?

/tumbleweed

No, I didn’t think so either as it seems that they have come down on the side of yet more government intervention. And that is without mentioning the presence of phrase ‘learns lessons from the past’ – something that is enough to send shivers down the spine given how often its variant ‘lessons will be learnt’ crops up in the aftermath of reports into public sector foul-ups.

The ministers go on to state:

Together we have to make it easier and more compelling for people to give time and money and so make the change they want to see.

I wasn’t aware that it was difficult to give money to charity and would expect that any organisation worth their salt has already made it easy to donate by all possible means. I will however agree that the giving of one’s time is somewhat difficult and something that would generally appear to be the preserve of those who don’t (whatever the circumstances) have to spend the majority of the week trying to earn a crust.

But enough of the fluff. What has the paper actually got to say for itself?

The rational for this whole exercise is that it seems that levels of giving have flatlined in recent years. This is probably even true given the economic situation as those with common sense will reign in non-critical spending (and arguably charity falls under this heading) until such time as they feel more able to donate.

However in order to make it easier for us to give of our time and money the following items, many of which build upon things talked about in the consultation paper, are mentioned. I have broken the list up in to two groupings for the sake of convenience.

Monetary

Cash Point Giving
From 2012 LINK cash machines will offer users the option to donate when they are withdrawing money. Rather than interfere with the withdrawal process, it will be offered as another menu item alongside the usual ones of cash, balance etc. Whilst this sounds like an unobtrusive and thus perfectly reasonable approach I am concerned however that the list of charities to which one may donate will be down to the operator of the individual cash points. Call me cynical but I foresee howling from smaller organisations if they aren’t on the list or, are on the list but no-one knows who they are resulting in money going to the recognisable name instead.

‘Round Pound’
Someone has taken the old adage of ‘looking after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ and translated that into a shiny new way of fleecing the punter. The paper highlights two schemes that are already in existence:

  • The Pennies Foundation in whereby “three-quarters of funds raised by this initiative are directed to a charity or charities chosen by the retailer, and the rest is distributed to ten other ‘UK people charities’ representing popular causes”.
  • Give Change, Make Change where the money is evenly split between British Red Cross, Great Ormond Street Hospital, WWF and Cancer Research UK. Hum, I think we can all play spot the fake charity there.

What you apparently can’t do with any of these schemes however is give solely to a charity of your choice.

Mobile Giving
Companies such as Vodafone, Orange and Blackberry have come up with some practical ways it seems to give time and/or money via the mobile.

  • Vodafone has teamed up with JustGiving to ‘allows charities and individuals to raise money using text messages in a way that is free to set up and run with all funds raised going to charity’.
  • Orange have developed an app that allows people to be charities’ eyes and ears, share ideas, take part in research or use their skills for the charity.
  • Via Blackberry Messenger a charity can create a unique PIN number to identify themselves within BBM. Users can then connect with that organisation via BBM and carry out a variety of tasks.

On the surface all of those sound quite workable and, importantly, allow the individual to pick the charity rather than having them suffer a predetermined list drawn up by others.

Taxation
One item in the budget that I appear to have missed is that from the start of the 2012/13 tax year, if more than 10% of an estate (excluding exemptions, over the threshold etc) is left to charity than the IHT will be reduced on that estate to 36% from 40%. That seems to me to be more of a flat out bribe than an incentive and I would hope that anyone who might pay IHT has already put serious thought into proper planning in order to avoid it.

Also, the UK Government is looking into accepting donations of works of art and items of historical interest in returns for IHT reductions. Is it just me or does that sound awfully like a protection racket?

Philanthropy advice
This is something that makes a modicum of sense as those who wish to give substantial sums may not necessarily know to whom to give to or what the money could be spent on so may well appreciate it. As someone who would, if they had the money, be a philanthropist such a thing would be of interest. I’m not sure however that it needs £700,000 of taxpayers money spent on it.

Non-Monetary

Community Organisers
In principle the idea of bring local people and organisations together so that they might share volunteers, facilities sounds like a good one. The downside though is that I seem to recall that the current US president was one…

To support them the Community Organisers will have access to an £80m Community First fund. Of this £30m of this will be set aside to match funds raised to support community-led projects in ‘targeted neighbourhoods of England with low social capital and significant deprivation’. It doesn’t say what neighbourhoods it has in mind though or how it will decide which projects are worthy. The remaining £50m will be an ‘Endowment Match Challenge available throughout England, with a clear priority to build local endowments through philanthropic donations’. Again pushing the philanthropic angle (this time after you have already gone to meet St. Peter) and, oddly, I see no mention of the other three countries in the Union.

Bureaucracy
The paper recognises that stupidity such as red tape and CRB checks often hinder giving and says that the government is promising to reduce such obstacles. Hopefully the cuts to the red tape will prove to be more than just hot air and the proposed CRB reforms (which are part of the almost forgotten about Freedom Bill) will come to pass. Also mentioned is what is termed ‘Citizen-led self-regulation’ – basically a ‘rate your volunteer’ thing in the same way as people can leave feedback on hotels, restaurants etc so will no doubt suffer all the potential problems as they do.

Giving Summit
The summit is a new initiative announced in the paper and will be held in the autumn. The idea is that:

This will be a platform for ideas generation, networking and decision-making, bringing together leaders and innovators from business, social enterprises, charities, community groups, academia and government.

Because apparently these groups don’t interact with one another. And there was me thinking that leading members of charities would be doing their level best to attempt to woo business into giving them money. Isn’t that what charity fundraisers and ‘networking’ are all about?

Children
No idea is, it seems, complete without getting children involved and this is no different – working, as it does, on the theory of getting them while they are young. A major plank of this is the ‘National Citizen Service’ or NCS – a name which can no doubt be twisted in any number of ways depending upon one’s political learnings and knowledge of history.

From reading though how it is described in the paper, the NCS comes across as a watered down version of the Duke of Edinburgh Award which somewhat makes me feel that the government is once again taking something that works and produce its own version rather than just leaving well alone.

Leading from the front
Just so us proles don’t feel left out, Ministers have pledged (and we all know that they keep those) that they will each undertake the One Day Challenge – ‘a voluntary commitment to give one day of their time over the course of a year to a charity or community group of their choice’ – and are hoping to persuade civil servants to also volunteer. Indeed, it seems that a number of government departments already offer their staff the opportunity to use at least one day of special leave to volunteer. What ‘special leave’ is I have no idea but I’m guessing it is on top of the regular holiday leave and the two weeks or so paid sick leave that seems to be spent on another foreign holiday… I suppose I shouldn’t really complain: the more time they aren’t at the desks, the less time they will actively be sending screwing the rest of us over!

I shouldn’t be completely cynical however. In a move that makes quite a lot of sense, the government is also allowing charities and volunteer groups to make use of parts of its buildings out of hours. This, I feel, is something that should be actively pursued at the local level as well. Who knows, it might even help the local library – a place we keep being told is in danger of becoming extinct. Throw in schools and there is a lot space there which is empty for a awful lot of time each year.

Celebrating Giving
And finally, for those who do give of their time and money, the government is considering handing out some form of award in recognition of this. Personally I thought we already had this covered with the existing awards system so I’m not entirely sure why we need some more.

Conclusion

I’m not, in the end, completely anti the whole paper as I thought I might be. Don’t get me wrong though. It isn’t perfect by any means but I feel it could have been an awful lot worse.

Unsurprisingly the more viable ideas seem to come from the private sector working in conjunction with the voluntary one whilst the objectionable bits – the NCS, the ‘Giving’ Summit and the money to be spent on the philanthropy advice service – are all government sponsored and will be run using taxpayer cash, providing little that either doesn’t all ready exist or is not needed,

Getting the public to be more charitable, self-sufficient and providing nonessential services locally to those in need is indeed a very laudable aim although I fear it will take more than just nice words and fancy ideas to stop the State thinking of itself as Pater and Mater to us all and for those who have fed deeply on the State teat to wean themselves off of it. The long term viability of any of the schemes, tax payer funded or not, is as yet unknown. They could be roaring successes but if they aren’t then what will happen? Will the government take the hit of seeing them close or will it throw other people’s money at the situation in a vain attempt to save face?

I’m all for cutting red tape and any other nonsense that stops people being able to give of their time freely but if the government really wanted to allow me to be able to donate more to charity then it should ease my (and everyone else’s) tax burden thus freeing up money which could be stuck in the collection tin.

No sex please, we’re British

Political lobbying group and some time parenting site Mumsnet has been forced by its members to back track on its support for censoring pornography on the web. Needless to say this hasn’t pleased the new Conservative MP Claire Perry the “won’t someone think of the children” authoritarian nut job who is apparently the current cheerleader in parliament for such a scheme.

Why the change of heart?

It seems that pressure came from two directions. Firstly, the more technically savvy members threw their children’s toys out of the pram over the site’s bandwagon jumping, pointed out that as a result of the law of unintended consequences the site itself could well be filtered and downed tools – an action that resulted in no technical support for those in need. Secondly, a few members mentioned the obvious issue: that it is not the job of the state to raise children.

Strangely the second one didn’t appear to fly with one of the site’s founders:

“I think there have been some really valid points about workability raised here but the “this is the thin end of the wedge on censorship” one doesn’t make sense to me. We already censor loads of things in the name of child protection on the internet and elsewhere. Of course there are valid concerns about where you draw the line but you can’t deny that we do draw the line already all over the place – we censor illegal images, we rate dvds, we have a tv watershed.”

Who, unsurprisingly, completely misses the point. Don’t want young children to see pornography on the internet? Then don’t let them have a computer, x-box etc in their bedroom. Set up an account for them on the computer in the communal area that has proper filters in place to stop them seeing it. Don’t know how to do that? Then ask a friend, neighbour etc. Use some bloody initiative rather than expecting the state to act as backstop for your stupidity!

/takes blood pressure tablets and calms down.

Ahem.

Eventually however Mumsnet did decide that perhaps it had acted too hastily and the same person who posted the previously stupidity said:

“We are not going to back any solution… what we are interested in is protecting children online. However, everything we do on Mumsnet is a conversation and our opinions evolve with our users.”

Translation: We got our fingers burnt and next time we will talk to the membership before leaping on any passing bandwagons.

We aren’t of course out of the woods as yet. The government, in the shape of Culture Minister Ed Vaizey as well as the aforementioned Clarie Perry, is already talking to ISPs about getting them to filter the web. Perry, writing in the Telegraph, explains that she would like to see “a home network level ‘opt-in’ filter for internet porn”. Additionally the head of Ofcom (that government quango) said that, “given the technological convergence, if the ISP industry does not come up with a workable opt-in solution, regulation may be the only answer”.

Safermedia – a Christian charity (fake charity status unknown) also campaigning for internet filtering – said about the proposals:

I am surprised that parents would be critical of the campaign because the idea is to help parents. If internet users have to opt in to view pornography parents don’t have to worry about protecting their children from it… I think there has to be censorship to protect children. If you’re over 18 you won’t be censored [under the proposals]”

For crying out loud, when will you fools get it? You’ve recently been berating various countries like Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia for closing down the internet in order to try and stop anti-government protesters. You frequently complain about China locking down the internet and employing an army of thousands to police content as well as companies such as Google who have bowed to the regime there and acted as censors.

Even after all of that you want to employ similar tactics in this country? And all because of the emotive rallying cry of “Won’t someone think of the children”. In the name of the children we have the Criminal Records Bureau, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and others. Have they made children any safer from the paedophile that would otherwise be living under every bed and stalking the corridors of our schools, youth centres and any other place where children might go? No, of course they haven’t. All those bits of paper have done is ensure that innocent people are dismissed from their jobs and that children are being taught to fear all adults.

Can such a scheme even work? Well the Australian government under Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have been trying to do the same for some years now without success (as yet). It has been dogged by controversy with banned sites so far including such horrors as a dental practice and various education sites – quite amusing given that Stephen Conroy, the idiot charged with trying to implement the scheme, has said that it would be “100% accurate”. An opinion poll has suggested that over 90% of the Australian public don’t want the scheme and even children’s charities out there have dismissed it as a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

In the end though it is not about the children – that is just a convenient hook to use and one that can be hard to argue against without being smeared as someone who supports child pornography and other such nonsense – but about control. The internet, allowing the rapid dissemination of information, is a threat to governments around the world regardless of how democratic they appear to be and for that reason they want to place limits on it.

Such behaviour must be resisted at all costs.

Charity begins at…? Part 1

We all know that Christmas is traditionally the season of giving, even if it is only presents to loved ones. The problem is that it would appear that the Government also knows this and has, via Francis Maude and Anne Milton, floated ideas to do what it does best: give away what belongs to other people.

For the sake of length I’ll address these two separate but related issues in two posts beginning with Francis Maude.

On the Wednesday just gone a Green Paper published on behalf of Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, proposed “a new role for government as a facilitator of giving, making it easier for philanthropists, volunteers and charities to form partnerships”. Something tells me that those charities which are still charities (and not simply an extension of the state) don’t really need the dead hand of central government adding an extra layer of management and complexity to their organisations.

The first part of the paper talks about how we can be encouraged to part with our time and money:

Business can offer valuable support by, for example, encouraging employees to give time and money, introducing payroll giving, making company resources available to community groups, and helping employees learn how to get involved in social action.

Oh great, yet more potential for top slicing my salary. What if I don’t want to give that month? Or if I want to give money to a different cause? Can’t imagine that HR of a small, let alone a large, company will be to happy keeping track of what and how much is supposed to be going to whom across every employee on a monthly basis. This will quickly get boiled down to something to make their lives easier: a fixed percentage to one of a small number of organisations on for a fixed period (say 6 or 12 months) with no way to opt out until that period is over. Thanks, but no thanks. If I want to donate it’ll be from my own pocket as and when I want to and to whomever I wish.

The Pennies Foundation has developed marginal giving technology that allows customers to ’round up the pound’ and so give small amounts every time they make a payment with a debit or credit card.

Are sales assistants going to be trained to ask you to do this in the same way they ask about your store card? This will result in the length of time it takes to extract money from the customer increasing, more staff being required to maintain throughput and thus fixed costs go up. Which charity is the money going to go to? Do we get to chose and let our bank know or is it going to be the charity that the business you are patronising chooses? If the latter then stores will have to let their customers know and staff will no doubt be asked at the checkout – this slowing things down further.

The Colombian system of ATM giving allows customers to make a donation every time they withdraw money.

Yet another screen to read when withdrawing money? All people want to do is get their hard earned cash, not be made to feel guilty for hitting the ‘No’ button. And the same problem as described above applies.

Online donation agencies like justgiving and virginmoneygiving have made it easier both for people to raise money and for people to give.

Applications and websites, such as the forthcoming Givey, allow donors to give time or money while they’re on the move using mobile phones or portable computers.


Internet platforms like slivers.com match organisations with people who want to ‘micro-volunteer’ or donate short periods of time.

All of these have something thing in common – they were developed without interference from government. It is business and charities adapting to the changing environment around them and simply getting on with things without needing Nanny to tell them how. The later however is a example of a nice idea not initially working in the market place, an ensuing spat between creator and money men over ownership and resurrection before being given taxpayers money and eventually completely selling out to the public sector.

And all that is just for those who have money, no matter how little. The paper does however suggest offering tax relief to those who do decide to give money. If you are too young to have money though, fear not, you will targeted in other ways:

National Citizen Service will open up a host of new opportunities for 16 year-olds to give time. It will play an important role both in building social cohesion by creating new connections between young people, and in demonstrating the benefits of social action to them.

Or they could go out and get a (Saturday) job like my generation and those before mine did. If a 16 year-old wants to volunteer they will but having some well meaning adult telling them to do so will do down like a lead balloon at an age where children barely listen to their own parents.

They are also looking to “fund a programme for younger school children to find out about giving and establish a social norm at an early stage of life”. Or, in other words, getting them whilst they are too young to know any better.

Even death should not be a reason not to give. One of the many quotes scattered amongst the document informs us that only 9% of the total value of legacies goes to charity, the rest being spread amongst family and friends. Quelle horreur! I take it that the people behind this have never seen the result of leaving one’s entire estate to charity? Locusts are known to leave more behind than a charity performing a house clearance. Be sensible, suggest a collection be taken up on behalf of your favourite charity instead of flowers and make sure that money is given to the local branch rather than the central hub.

Fresh from telling us how to, the paper moves on to telling us where we can give to and here, once again, we find that the state already has its tentacles buried inside the so-called ‘third-sector’ having taken the previously independent UK Community Foundations, brought them into Orwellian sounding ‘Office of the Third Sector’ and supplied them with a generous amount of taxpayer money (£130 million). This is as well as having them involved in distributing money collected via the National Lottery.

Not yet content, we are informed that starting in Match 2011, the taxpayer will be “investing in the front line Volunteer Infrastructure Programme in order to provide the public with information on local volunteering opportunities and to provide support to organisations that manage volunteers”. Why pray tell? Has it been impossible up to now for individuals to find causes they they wish to assist? Has every organisation been incompetently run?

No proposal would, of course, be down with the kids unless it could be linked to the media, both new and old. Reflecting the current way of the world Facebook and Twitter get an obligatory mention as does C4s Secret Millionaire and the charity marathons hosted by our state media machine.

To be fair it does say that not all giving should not be selfless however and that large donations, be it in time or money, should be recognised. I’m not sure though that ideas such as

thank you letters from Ministers; a national day to celebrate donors; a televised weekly ‘thank you’ to national lottery winners who have donated;

will induce anything other than mass vomiting however.

Never fear though, the government is leading by example…

Government has the opportunity to encourage its employees to lead by example, and in so doing help build new social norms. Plans are already underway to develop a ‘civic service’, whereby civil servants are encouraged to contribute to their communities.

What joy, more attempts by government to produce the ideal prole but this time they are using peer pressure to back up their desires. It isn’t content to stick with just encouraging those on the payroll to give of their time though:

For instance, the Department of Health provided £5,000 to Southwark Voluntary Action (the Council for Voluntary Service local to one of the Department’s office buildings) to compile a directory of local community venues that could be used for external meetings and events. This has multiple benefits of increasing links with local community groups, reducing public spend on venue hire and pumping more public money into the local community.

Yep, it is that old favourite of using your money as well on something that should be done by the market… and if it isn’t done by the market then the need for it doesn’t exist or the savings in time and money are insignificant.

Early on, the paper tells us that the main lesson that government can draw from the past is to acknowledge its limits. A pity then that it decided to get involved as it seems to ignore that salutatory point as the paper goes on and in the end it just seems like the paper is all about the government actions in effectively nationalising the entire charitable sector – for our own good. Given the success of the state in other fields such a move would spell disaster.

Disclaimer: The author donates money to two charities – the RNLI and the Royal British Legion. She would consider giving her time to local organisations but doesn’t have any spare Monday to Friday and likes to spend the weekend doing her own thing. You can, if you so wish, consider the Sunday afternoons spent scoring for a local cricket club, producing the statistics and maintaining their website – all without any pay (unless you count beer) – as giving time to charity.

Bookstart

Never heard of them until today? OK, maybe you have if you have small children. But why have they suddenly made headlines? Because they have had their government funding removed and they – and their supporters including the bandwagon jumping leader of the Labour party – are complaining.

What are they all about then?

For starters they refer to themselves as a ‘national independent charity’. This could be said to be slightly disingenuous as it is the parent organisation – Booktrust – that is the registered charity (since 1963-07-01). Bookstart didn’t come about until 1992 when research commissioned by Booktrust found that children whose family had started them reading before they went to school did better. Yes, this sounds like a case of the bleeding obvious to me as well.

As obvious as it may seem, they still managed to persuade Sainsbury’s to give them money and eventually this brought them fame and fortune. Or, at least, the attentions of our unlamented former PM but Chancellor at the time Gordon Brown. In 2004 he decided to throw taxpayers money at the scheme in order to give ‘free’ books to children under the age of four. It was at this point that we can safely say that Booktrust stopped being a charity and became what is known as a fake-charity – or government quango.

Indeed their 2009 accounts show that the three programs they fund were granted almost £15 million from the taxpayer. This equates to over 95% of their income for that year. So what did we (the taxpayer) get for that money?

An awful lot of marketing material and self-promotion it seems.

  • 23,000 Best BookGuide to Picture Books were distributed in the Children’s Book Week packs to all primary schools, public libraries, school library services and teacher training institutions, plus 1,000 copies to independent bookshops;
  • 20,000 copies of the Rough Guide to Picture Books were distributed to Waterstone’s, and 70,000 copies to families with young children across the country, via Bookstart local coordinators;
  • The Big Picture Campaign was promoted at festivals including Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham;
  • The campaign raised the profile of illustrators, while promoting the art istic qualities and appeal of picture books to less confident parents.
  • We were pleased to receive continued DCSF funding for Everybody Writes, a partnership with the National Literacy Trust, and this year developed printed resources for primary and secondary schools with 8,000 brochures distributed. The website attracts on average 8,000 web hits per month.
  • Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen has been an excellent champion for children’s literature and the pleasures of reading. A 10th Anniversary event at the Festival Hall, attended by Michael and former laureates Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo, Anne Fine and Jacqueline Wilson, attracted several hundred children with their families.
  • Children’s Book Week 2008, launched by Michael Rosen and 200 children on the London Eye, followed by a writing event producing a giant poem “I spy with my little eye” was mentioned on BBC Newsround.
  • The 2008 Children’s Book Week resource pack, themed this year Rhythm and Rhyme, was sent to 23,000 primary schools, public and school libraries, and teacher training institutions.
  • The Booktrust school libraries leaflet continues to attract interest with 500 requests for extra copies.

There is something else, surely?

The Bookstart website tells us that ‘central funding from the taxpayer is only 25% of the retail cost of delivering Bookstart’ and that sponsors pick up the rest of the tab. It doesn’t, so far as I have been able to find, tell us who those sponsors are or how much they give but a crude extrapolation the 2009 accounts figure would suggest external funding to the tune of almost £45million. Not a small sum and one would hope that the ‘charity’ could – with some adjustments to its ambitions – cope on this alone. Or is it that the publishers of the books doled out via this program agreed to accept only 25% of the retail price as a gesture of goodwill? If so I’m sure the buyers at Amazon would like to hire the person who made that deal as even they haven’t managed to screw the publishers quite that much.

So what books do we get for that money? Those chosen by the ‘Bookstart book panel’ which is made up of book experts, librarians, health professionals and early years professionals. It doesn’t however name these kind professionals who I have no doubt have gone to great lengths to ensure that the nations children receive only the best.

The question though – and one I’m would guess that Michael Gove asked – is what is the point of this scheme? Those who want the best for their children taught them to read before it came along and will continue to do so after it disappears by making full use of the library service when the children were young and then buying them books or passing on items kept from their own childhoods as the get older. Those who don’t will leave it to the nursery or the school teachers who have for many years been the fall back for those parents who forgo their responsibilities.

I’m sure that it is the latter category that this scheme would have been after but if they weren’t going to teach their kids to read before hand, they certainly weren’t going to do so just because the state handed them some ‘free’ books. These are people who don’t see the point of formal education and until their minds change then this scheme, however noble in intention, is doomed to fail. Being a bookworm myself I applaud the sentiment behind it but I have no wish to see the taxpayer pick up the tab for a cause that should be funded through voluntary donations from corporations and philanthropists alone.