A charity is often a very good cause. Whether it be assisting the aged, abused children, mentally handicapped, a repair for a local place of worship, cancer research, starving kids in Africa, or a plethora of other causes, we can understand why someone is shaking a tin for loose coins or requesting a cheque, a standing order payment or a prize to be auctioned or raffled to raise funds for the charity. If we have not heard of the charity, possibly because it is small, but the cause sounds reasonable and those associated with it include the great and good, then we may make a donation without much further investigation. This could be a big mistake.
I bring to your attention the charity PACT: Parents & Abducted Children Together. The website of the charity informs us that PACT “works with the government, the police and other NGOs to improve the way in which missing childrenís [sic] cases are handled, so that they can be rapidly located and retrieved unharmed.” Abducted children: a fine charitable cause. Tesco is associated with the charity. Among others, the trustees of the charity include the author Barbara Taylor Bradford, a former head of Special Branch in Northern Ireland and Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the United States. This is not all because the patrons include both Cherie Blair, wife of a former British Prime Minister and Laura Bush, wife of the former American president. A very credible selection of people.
Those that donate money to charity, however wealthy they are, have limited funds to donate. A donation to one charity means a smaller or no donation to another. If asked by a friend or acquaintance for a donation to PACT, a charity founded in 1999 by Lady Meyer, the wife of Sir Christopher Meyer, one might have done so in the belief that their donation was doing good. But was this really the case?
As the accounts of the charity show, in 2010 income was £97,805 and expenditure, £80,491. In 2009, the income was £28,445 and expenses £87,640 leading to a loss, even after taking into account unrealised investment gains, of over £50,000. When we look at expenses we can see that over £49,586 of expenses in 2010 related to the salaries of Catherine Meyer (Lady Meyer) and her administrative assistant. The Daily Telegraph understands that nearly 70 percent of that money was related to the salary of Lady Meyer. In 2009, expenses directly related to the salaries of Lady Meyer and her assistant was £63,877. It is quite easy to see why the charity lost over £50,000 that year. Donations to the charity seem to have done more to pay the Chanel-clad Lady Meyer her salary and expenses than they have done to assist abducted children.
People set up or involve themselves in charities for all sorts of reasons and not all of the reasons are necessarily altruistic. Improving social standing, developing contacts or trying to secure a knighthood might be included as to a reason for involvement. Donors to charities understand that this is case but do not begrudge such side benefits if the charity is hugely benefitting from their efforts. Donors to charities also understand that a charity might need to employ professional staff who need to be paid. What they do not expect is that the big-wigs at the top of the charity, the so-called great and good, are paid.
It makes a mockery of giving to charity if the charitable donations are going to a person who can use the funds to purchase more Chanel suits, designer clothes that the donors cannot afford for themselves. When a beggar on a street informs us he is “homeless and hungry” and requests a donation, he might not be telling the full truth about his condition, but at least he is being honest as to who is to be the recipient of the donation .