i Editor's Letter: Shining the spotlight on charities

All non-profits should  treat such investigations as a wake-up  call

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The Independent Online


I cancelled the direct debit to Oxfam – won by a chugger when I was a  teenager – after the charity refused to stop posting me copious junk mail. I’ll never give to them again. Charities can so easily squander trust and undermine their good work.

Britain is the most generous nation in the developed world, with three-quarters of us giving to good causes in a typical month. But a Panorama investigation broadcast tonight will air worrying claims about three major UK charities.

A whistleblower from Save the Children claims that a public condemnation of gas price rises was spiked “because, I was told, it would upset British Gas who were Save the Children donors.” In a leaked email obtained by i, a manager wrote: “We should not risk the EDF partnership.” The charity strongly denies that its silence can be bought, I should add.

Comic Relief, we learn, has invested in funds that bought shares in the alcohol, arms and tobacco industries. Amnesty UK also takes flak.

These are organisations that do great good. But all charities should  treat such investigations as a wake-up  call: do they need to pay big salaries? Do they have a self-perpetuating bureaucracy? What proportion of donations do they hand straight back to public relations? One reason we  chose our Christmas charity, Space for Giants, was because it is so small: your help will go a long way. And it has tiny overheads – all in Kenya, there is no UK office.

Panorama should be applauded. Just as the media must challenge governments, so too must it shine a spotlight on the work of charities – none of which should consider themselves beyond scrutiny.


The MPs’ pay rise is not about whether they should be paid more. This decision cannot be taken in a vacuum. So while public sector workers get 1 per cent pay “rises”,  MPs can whistle for their 11 per cent. Reject it, now, loudly, and all together – and forget about it until more prosperous times. You may just win back some respect.


Twitter.com: @olyduff