Putting your money where your mouth is

By 8 January 2010

I think that people should talk about their giving. They should not be ashamed to say which charities they give to, and they should be willing to discuss why they give to those and not to one of the other estimated 180,000 charities. It should be acceptable to say ‘no’ to fundraisers, or friends about to run a marathon, on the basis that you think carefully about your giving, and have chosen to not support that particular charity. (To the many friends whom I have not supported for this reason, I apologise…)

So it was interesting to see Stephen Bubb, mention which charities he chooses in a post over Christmas. He is the Chief Executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations here in the UK and prolific and informative blogger. He was admiring the fact that Christmas cards sent by the Prime Minister and his wife (or just ‘Gordon and Sarah’) benefited Water Aid, which he also supports. He follows this up with:  “And as you are asking the other charities I support personally each month they are: Christian Aid, Action Aid, VSO, my local Churches and my old Oxford college.” I applaud him for talking about his own giving so openly. Personally, I find his choices intriguing. He is the chief executive of a sector umbrella body that represents over 2,000 charities. These vary hugely in size, though they tend to be larger ones. But Stephen’s choices are the real giants of the sector—Christian Aid has an income of £87m, WaterAid £44m, ActionAid £68m and VSO £43m. His old college has an endowment of around £250m. All of these beneficiaries (ignoring the churches) are easily within the top 0.2% of charities in terms of income.

There is nothing wrong with this, but is interesting. If Stephen, who is so familiar with the huge range of organisations chooses to donate to such large, well-known, brand-named charities, it is no wonder smaller organisations find it so difficult to fundraise from individual donors.

This is not meant to be a criticism of Stephen; I am only writing about it because it is so rare for someone in the sector to openly discuss their giving, and would be fascinated to hear about which charities other sector workers actually support. (And even though you didn’t ask, I commit the ultimate sin by chopping and changing charities every month. But they tend to work in the homelessness or refugee sectors, given that these are fields that I have personally researched and therefore can have confidence in my choices. It is no surprise that they are mostly charities that NPC has recommended – such as Asylum Aid, Bail for Immigration Detainees, Thames Reach and St Basils. And one big, household name: Save the Children.) If you do start to read Bubb’s blog, I urge you to also try the magnificent anonymous spoof blog written by “Robin Bogg, the chief executive of British Umbrella Backing Body, BUBB.” Eg, his take on the post discussed today is here.