Letter from the News Editor: Are charities always doing the right thing?

  • @franyeoman


All who give money to charity want it do to the most good possible. That’s presumably why some get angry about the periodic stories surrounding charities’ salary bills (often forgetting that many charities are huge organisations that need talented people). Yet charitable giving is not a simple financial transaction. Donors often have personal motivations, be it a love of wildlife, sympathy for disaster victims or memory of a relative lost to disease or war.

Last week I wrote about my dad. When he died of cancer last year, we debated who to raise money for in his name, settling on a small charity that builds water wells in India, for which he had volunteered. There is no way of assessing the mathematical cost-effectiveness of this decision, but the personal connection was important to us and his friends, who generously gave thousands. We didn’t want to set up a fund in his name, but nor did we, on this occasion, want to give to a huge organisation to which we felt no link.

Outgoing charities watchdog chief Sam Younger is right to encourage those establishing new charities to think first about whether they are doing the right thing. There are a huge number of organisations already doing great work, and duplicating office costs simply takes money away from the causes they are trying to serve. Indeed, there is scope within the charitable sector for some merging and cooperation. But efficiency isn’t everything. If your love, your loss or your obsession with a particularly endangered beetle drives you to set up a charity and work hard for a cause, then all power to you.

Twitter: @franyeoman