Friday, December 13, 2013

Where Did My CRC Donation Go?

I started wondering where my donations to the Central Remedial Clinic went.

I've been entering a monthly lottery for nearly 6 years now (because I want to win a car) and I've been very happy to know that in that time a portion of my money has gone to the CRC. I reckon about €250 worth.

But in the current scandal I'm seeing a lot of figures thrown around. Bonuses of €200k, massive pensions, massive salaries. [Salaries I dream of and aspire to - We live in a world obsessed with money and I fantasise about earning €240k so that I can donate loads, buy lots of presents, pay off my mortgage, take my family on a nice holiday and finally buy Fantastic Four #48.]

But for the moment I'm wondering where my €250 here's the breakdown (rough estimates):

  • 50 cent went to Paul Kiely's 'retirement bonus'.
  • About €1.70 went EVERY YEAR to the CEO.
  • About 47 cent went every year to the IT Manager (Not a volunteer).
  • Nearly €200 went to the rest of the staff - trained nurses, speech therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists, nurses, cleaners, etc. (Legends, who in turn spent that money on their mortgages, at the shops, paying taxes, etc.)
  • About €40 went on electricity (running a gait lab and a heated pool for example), maintenance, phone bills, cleaning products, toilet paper, etc.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Charities Already Are Transparent...Maybe You're Just Not Looking?

You might think charities are hiding something. The ongoing CRC scandal, Comic Relief's unethical investments, responses from politicians, countless people (including me) crying out "Charities need to be more transparent!"

But actually, some charities need to be more transparent. Some already are. And it's easy to see why the organisations that already publish their accounts and salaries and effectiveness are getting frustrated that they're being called on to do something that they already do.

Don't us donors have to take some, if not more, responsibility? If charities like the CRC don't publish their accounts and we still donate to them then aren't we perpetuating the problem?

When I think back to the charities I've donated to this year I can say that, personally, I'm confident that my money is being spent as well as possible.

I'm proud to donate to Concern Worldwide. They publish their accounts with more detail than is required. For the fourth successive year they won the Published Accounts Awards for charities in Ireland. They keep me updated with videos, photos and more information than I can keep up with. I've e-mailed them twice in the last year with questions - they responded quickly and thoroughly.

Dogs Trust also publish their accounts. And they have a re-homing centre out in Finglas where I can physically go and actually see their happy dogs. They have a running counter on the wall which tells me how many dogs have been re-homed this year.

Whenever children's rights are in the news I know Fergus Finlay will be there in the front row speaking and campaigning of behalf of the children that we treat so badly. The internet's auto-response to Fergus is, "Yeah, but how much does he earn?" which annoys me massively because he tells us exactly how much he earns about 4 times a year. Seriously everyone, stop asking the comments section on news sites and ask Google or Barnardos' own accounts. They are extremely transparent.

The two children I sponsor keep me updated with actual letters and drawings and for me that's good enough to instill confidence. But the charities also adhere to a number of codes of practice above and beyond what I'd expect. And I know what their CEO earns because they publish it.

I donated to Bothar for (I think) the first time. Their website tells me (-ish) what their CEO earns, they publish accounts, they have a feedback/complaint procedure, a donor charter and more. And more importantly, based on the available information, they are improving my world. [Updated: their CEO made completely the wrong move on the radio the other day - criticising the CRC and then not willing to say how much he earns. Shame really, when we already know he earns less than €100k]

I also donated to about half a dozen other charities because I liked the fundraisers, I'm researching the charity's donor communications, or as a result of my Twitter experiment. That's totally the wrong reason to donate and really - since I didn't do any research or ask any questions - I don't have any expectations beyond the fact that they're operating legally.

And finally, (this may surprise you) I also donate to the Central Remedial Clinic. Kind of. Like the majority of people who donate to the CRC I actually enter a monthly raffle to win a car. I really want that car. If any of the money helps people in need then that's a bonus. But let's be honest...I want a car.

I flippantly compared it to the Lotto, but was then shocked to find that the National Lottery are amazingly transparent. Honestly, a number of charities could learn a lot from the Lotto's annual report. I'm seriously considering switching my CRC 'donation' to a lotto 'donation'.

The point is that we, as donors, have to take at least some of the responsibility. The HSE funding is a problem too and again we have to take some of the responsibility for the government we voted in.

The lesson...if it wasn't already to find out the answers to what concerns you before you donate. If a charity doesn't put their accounts on their website then why are you donating to them? If you phone/e-mail and ask a question that they won't answer then go find someone who will.

Donating is like investing in a business. When you are donating to a charity you are investing in a better world for yourself, investing in people trying to do good, and investing in people who need a little support to achieve basic human (and non-human) rights.

Would you invest in a company without researching simply because someone asked you to?

Monday, December 9, 2013

We Owe Our Supporters Transparency

I wrote a guest article for the European Fundraising Association here.
Charities can spend their income in any way they want as long as they are able to explain why their actions are the best way to make the world a better place, says Simon Scriver of Total Fundraising.  The sector needs to be more transparent and to focus on showing the real results of their work.
When the CRC 'top-up scandal' settles down I think there will be much more to be written on transparency. But for the moment I'll stick with the guest article We Owe Our Supporters Transparency.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Do You React To Charity Sector Scandals?

There are 3 types of events that will cause your donor cancellations to spike: organisation, sector, and national/global.

Organisational events are things like your CEO saying something stupid or you sending out a really bad mailing. Something that affects only your organisation.

National and global events affect everyone, not just charities. For example, if the Government announces a tough budget or there's a global catastrophe. Similarly, every January everyone sees a spike.

What we have going on right now is a 'sector' event: the Central Remedial Clinic "used charity money to top up senior staff salaries" above what was agreed, and above what was implied to the public. There's more coming out and more questions to be asked - so I'm parking my thoughts for another blog post.

These sector events affect every charity. How is your organisation reacting to this scandal? And how do you react and prepare for future organisation, sector and global events?

There's no doubt your donors - individuals and companies - are trying to decide whether you're one of the good ones or bad ones. And there's no guarantee they'll be rational. For many people charities are interchangeable and, unfortunately, some people think 'a bad charity' means 'charities are bad'.

The hospital foundations have started to react. Beaumont Hospital Foundation reacted quickly going as far as to take a newspaper ad in the Irish Independent. Similarly, Mercy Hospital and CMRF both quickly released statements. Irish Cancer Society released a super transparent Questions & Answers.

Central Remedial Clinic are currently giving a lesson in how not to react. Their statement was patchy, their silence is worrying. And they are getting absolutely battered.

Perhaps most impressive was Jack & Jill Foundation who came out quickly on their website, in on-line news, as well as all over the radio. Their CEO used it as another opportunity to publish his salary and to justify it. He thanked his donors. He appealed for support. The response has been, for the most part, positive. Jonathan Irwin's €90k could easily have been criticised if it was presented as part of a witch-hunt, but they're presenting it on their terms. (I just wish they'd publish their accounts on their website).

Transparency is key. There should be no surprises.

Wherever you are spending your income, you should be able to proudly stand by and broadcast to the world. "This expense is absolutely the best thing we can do right now to make the world a better place."

And if it's not, why not?

Regardless of your distance from the CRC the scandal will probably affect your organisation. So what are you going to do about it?

This won't be the last spike in cancellations you'll see. There will be another recession. There will be another scandal. There will be another January (check your calendar).

You can't always predict when these spikes are going to happen. But you can predict how you're going to react.