AS Christmas approaches, it’s the ‘giving’ time of year when we are bombarded with TV ads for some of Britain’s more than 200,000 registered charities. Many ask you to text a word such as ‘care’, ‘heart’ or ‘child’ to give just £2 or £3 or £5 a month.
We’re told that this small sum can provide lifesaving medicine for a child or provide food for a week. Some charities will be satisfied with your donation, but in many cases this £2 or £3 or £5 a month will hardly pay for the charity’s expensively produced TV ad. The real aim of the texted donations is not to raise money but to harvest donors’ phone numbers to add to the charities’ ‘suckers list’. These phone numbers will be passed on to a telephone fundraising agency who will call the texter.
The telefundraiser staff have a sales script which is designed to get the texter to set up a bank direct debit to the charity. The telefundraiser will use the fact that a person is already donating via their phone and is therefore interested in supporting the charity’s work. As one recruitment ad for telefundraisers explained: ‘The role involves calling individuals who have already expressed an interest in the campaign you are working on, and securing additional funds in a warm, friendly and persuasive manner.’
Some telefundraisers may work for the charity they claim to represent. But often they will work for profit-making telefundraising companies. Charities pay between £80 to £120 to the telefundraising companies for each direct debit recruited. So, depending on how much you agree to give through your direct debit, little to none of your first year’s donations will get anywhere near the charity.
Setting up a telefundraising company can be quite a profitable business. One which was set up by two former in-house charity fundraisers made gross profits of £10.1million on a turnover of £26.2million and paid its founders £2.5million in dividends over seven years in addition to their generous salaries.
One telefundraising company made more than 1,250,000 calls a year to potential donors. That’s 24,000 calls a week. It has been estimated that telefundraisers make more than 10million such calls a year.
Until a few years ago, I knew nothing about Britain’s massive charity industry. In fact, I made regular donations to several charities. But I noticed how my elderly, dementia-affected mother was being harassed by charities and so did a little research. This resulted in my book The Great Charity Scandal, in which I question why Britain needs more than 200,000 registered charities and show that only around half the money we donate gets used for real charitable work. I found one supposed ‘charity’ which in one year paid consultancy companies owned by the charity’s three founders around £90,000 each while using just over £130,000 for charitable activities. There are many small charities which could appear to be get-rich-quick schemes for their lucky founders.
As for our larger charities, many claim that around £9 out of every £10 donated goes to charitable activities. But when you actually do the boring work of looking at their accounts, you find that they include all kinds of stuff like administration, fundraising, running membership schemes and rent for their offices as ‘charitable activities’. So the amount which goes to charitable activities is often only a fraction of what the charity claims.
There is a homelessness charity currently advertising on TV whose ads strongly suggest to me that it provides accommodation for the homeless. But only £6.1million of the £64million raised by this charity last year was spent on ‘housing’. A much larger amount, £19.9million, was spent on raising funds. The remaining £38million, I’m sure, was used on other useful and relevant stuff.
Britain’s massive charity industry has, I believe, become an out-of-control, self-serving, money-grabbing, greedy monster. So please be careful who you give your money to this Christmas. You may need it a lot more than the more than a million often well-paid employees of Britain’s supposed ‘voluntary sector’.