Independent Voices, Indy Voices

Charities need money. But they also need principles

Every NGO worker knows that it is a privilege to work in the sector

Share
Related Topics

Bonus bonanzas, aggressive targets, Government cash and six-figure salaries. The high-flying life of a British banker? No. This is the UK charity sector in today’s new world.

Tonight, BBC’s Panorama lifts the lid on how some big British charities make money. Focusing on Comic Relief, Amnesty and Save the Children, viewers may be surprised to learn how far they will go to hit the bottom line.

I should be clear from the start: I was Head of News at Save the Children for two years. It’s a charity I still care for, that does excellent work, saving and building lives in the world’s toughest places. But I believe there is a growing problem at the heart of some NGOs that, if not confronted now, will end up undermining the sector – perhaps fatally.

NGOs are – or ought to be – forged and founded in the furnace of unmet human need, to care for the vulnerable and speak up for the voiceless. To do this they need money – money saves lives. But some NGOs, in their desire to boost income, have begun to contradict their founding principles.

When I was at Save from 2007 to 2009, running the press team, there was pressure to focus on child poverty in the UK. So when British Gas put their prices up, our policy colleagues asked us to send out a press release condemning them, on the premise that poor families would be forced to make choices between heating their homes or feeding their children.

I wrote the release, and got it approved. But it was spiked because, I was told, it would upset British Gas, who were Save donors.

There are other examples. Recently, a Save staffer reported that a colleague had written a blog on abuse of children in the tea industry – but it was spiked for fear it would upset Liptons, another corporate partner.

The directors of Save are all on salaries far in excess of £100,000 – often including bonuses. Yes, you should be paid a decent salary for what is a high pressure job. But every NGO worker knows it is a privilege to work in the sector, to go home at night and to feel good about the contribution you have made. Bonuses are not right. It’s as simple as that.

Companies want only one thing – good PR. And that’s why they come to Save and other charities. Corporations are stuffing the mouths of some NGOs with gold, and it is wrong.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

C# .NET Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript HTML, CSS) Finance

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh-£260/day

£230 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS, Crystal rep

£25000 - £30000 per annum + bonus+benefits+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: The Hitch on Americans, literature, liberal intervention and language

John Rentoul
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment