For charities, charity begins at home

There are very few charities and NGO’s that command my unquestioning admiration. There are many where the stated objectives are something I would like to support. But in most cases their objectives do not withstand too much scrutiny. And whenever I try to do some background checks I end up finding that a political agenda lies behind the apparently worthy objective. Distortion of data to suit a political “cause” is all too common. In some cases they have merely become advocacy groups where their ends justify their means. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund – for many of their projects – have embraced coercion and are no longer trustworthy. Even the main stream organisations like the Red Cross in Sweden or Save the Children – for example – have had their share of scandals and cases of embezzlement of funds.

I am always amazed at how little of what is contributed by the general public ends up being disbursed on the ground. There are people with “sticky fingers” at every step of the “charity money trail”.

This in the Guardian only goes to support my view that many of the so-called charities have become organisations where the primary goal is to take care of their own. Once upon a time a charity-worker was one who commanded some admiration for his care for those in need.. No longer. For charities and many NGO’s, top executives – and staff in general – get salaries at such high levels that it can no longer be assumed that altruism plays any part.

Even with charities it seems that Greed – not Altruism – is the name of the game.

Leading charities have defended the income of their chief executives after research revealed that the number receiving six-figure salaries at Britain’s 14 biggest foreign aid charities has risen by nearly 60%, from 19 to 30, over the past three years.

The number of staff on salaries of more than £60,000 at charities – which form the 50-year-old Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) and co-ordinate disaster relief during global emergencies – increased by 16%, to 192, between 2010 and 2012, the Daily Telegraph reported. Eleven of the executives were paid more than the prime minister’s salary of £142,500 a year in 2013, while some senior staff at some charities had pay rises despite falling revenues and donations.

William Shawcross, the chairman of the Charity Commission, said trustees of the charities should assess pay to judge if it is appropriate. “It is not for the commission to tell charities how much they should pay their executives. That is a matter for their trustees,” he told the newspaper. “However, in these difficult times, when many charities are experiencing shortfalls, trustees should consider whether very high salaries are really appropriate, and fair to both the donors and the taxpayers who fund charities. Disproportionate salaries risk bringing organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute.”

…. The top earners whose pay increased included Sir Nicholas Young, the chief executive of the British Red Cross, who has received a 12% pay rise to £184,000 since 2010, despite a 1% fall in donations and a 3% fall in revenues.

Justin Forsyth, the chief executive of Save the Children, received £163,000 last year, while Anabel Hoult, its chief operating officer, was paid £168,653. Revenue at the charity has fallen by 3% since 2010, although donations are significantly up. A Save the Children spokesman said the charity paid competitive wages benchmarked against two external salary surveys. “We want to save more children’s lives. We can’t – and shouldn’t – compete with salaries in the private sector, but we need to pay enough to ensure we get the best people to help our work to stop children dying needless deaths.”

The salary of Chris Bain, the director of the Catholic aid charity Cafod, increased by 9% between 2010 and 2012, from £80,000 to £87,000. Over the same period donations and revenue rose 16% and 24% respectively. A Cafod spokesman said its director’s pay “remains much lower than any of his counterparts in the biggest non-governmental organisations, and has only risen in recent years in line with the increase for other Cafod members of staff”.

Richard Miller, the director at ActionAid, saw his pay rise by 8% to nearly £89,000 a year, while revenues and donations fell by 11%. Janet Convery, ActionAid’s director of communications, said: “Richard Miller’s salary is well below the market rate for a chief executive of a major development charity.”

The top paid executive at Christian Aid was Loretta Minghella, a former chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, who was paid £126,072 this year, up from £119,123 in 2011. A Christian Aid spokesman said the charity had a “strict policy that requires us to set salaries at or below the median of other church-based and/or international development agencies”.

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