Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Where does charity start and finish? 
At what point does the very acts of charities become self defeating?

This week we had the appalling news in the UK media that Olive Cooke, a 92 year old woman, committed suicide apparently because she was pestered by charity fund-raising letters and phone calls to the rate of 260 begging letters a month.

According to the report (Daily Mail 16th May) charities such as Amnesty, Alzheimer's Society, Save the Children, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Prostrate Cancer UK and Breast Cancer Care were amongst those who sent begging letters to Olive before her death. Olive was already contributing to 27 charities on a monthly basis from her pension.
To make matters worse Olive was an enthusiastic collector for the British Legion for the past 76 years since her husband died in WW2 and she was responsible for collecting thousands of pounds for charity.

The family has since denied that Olive's suicide was due to pressure from these charities but it does highlight a very good point, that many elderly folk are being targeted deliberately because they are seen as a 'soft touch' and in turn the charities are failing the very people they are set up to help.

So, where did it go wrong?
It seems that individual charities have been selling their donation data to mailing companies who in turn contract out, or sell, this data to other charitable organisations. Obviously this then leads to a mass mailing to all on the list from other charities.
I guess it must be a profitable exercise otherwise they would not do it and, playing on the goodwill and compassion of people, make a decent profit.

But I would question whether this whole process is self defeating in that it is targeting the very people they should be helping. I cannot help but ask the question, 'Is money becoming the god of these charities? The clamour for profit meaning that the original purpose has been lost?'

Also have the costs of these huge charities become too top heavy to be manageable?
The Daily Telegraph reports that Sir Nick Young, the chief executive of the British Red Cross, earns £184,000 pa, Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, received £163,000 last year, Chris Bain, the director of Catholic aid charity Cafod, earns £87,000 a year,  Richard Miller, director at ActionAid, earns £89,000 a year and Christian Aid's Loretta Minghella, who was a former chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, was paid £126,072 this year and £119,123 the previous year.

These are only the CEO's, how much are the charities paying out to senior management, lower management and in overheads before they are able to help the people they are set up to help?
Has it got to a point where the clamber for position and a large salary are the only desires for these charities?

Isn't it time the individual charities stopped selling off their data lists, the Information Commissioner looked at the sale of personal details, the Charities Commission reviewed the restrictions upon the mailing to vulnerable people, and the government followed through on the rhetoric of the recent election and curbed this trade? - otherwise we may see other Olive's in the future.