The problem with charity fundraising

July 16, 2014

Here’s what happened to me yesterday night: I had a knock on the door and in a state of semi confusion (I’m working night shift at the minute) I opened up to two people clad in red. So it wasn’t the mormons or the JWs coming to discuss their religious views, it was the Red Cross –  it was cold outside and as I didn’t have to have complex theological discussions with them, I invited them in. The Australian Red Cross run a lot of good programs such as breakfast clubs for kids in deprived areas, disaster relief, homeless help and watching out for seniors who are at risk – although the talk seemed to be focused on the fact none of the money was going to leave the shores of Australia (which is a bit of an odd premise given that the vast majority of the world is a lot less well off than Oz), it did make me feel that they were a cause worth supporting. Moreover, “100% of my money will go to the Red Cross” I was assured verbally and in writing.  Now that was a good selling point – I don’t feel money I give to charity should be being wasted on things that are not necessary. I don’t really get the point of paying for someone’s trip to some far flung country to raise “awareness” (that very fuzzy and rather odd term) for Breast Cancer. I feel I should be a good steward of the money that I give (hence why I look at using tax relief schemes which allow my money to go ever further) . I ended up agreeing to support the Red Cross monthly for the next 24 months to the tune of $39 a month – no big deal since I was told 100% of my money went to the Red Cross, right? Wrong – no sooner had the two people left the house and I had made myself a cup of Earl Grey, I started to read through the small print of what I had signed. There was the bit where it clearly states that 100% of my gift goes to the Red Cross (underlined for effect)  but under it there was also the following:

“Red Cross pays Appco Group Support a one-time fee of a pre-allocated fundraising budget. This type of fundraising is one of the most cost effective available to charities and allows the Red Cross to plan ahead with confidence”

A fee? Indeed, it would seem there’s a fee that’s been given to a third party for me signing up. Some would argue that the money is from a separate fund but what goes it has to come back in so it’s rather disingenuous to argue that 100% of my money goes to the Red Cross. So how much is this sign-up fee I then started to wonder. Rather perversely, Appco/Red Cross won’t tell you what the fee is. It’s not written down anywhere on the contract but with some calculations I was able to estimate it. Given that the minimal direct debit they would allow you do to was $39 it would seem fair to assume most people would start at that level. On the other side of the sheet, I found some further data.

“The average length of pledge is 5 years, this amount will equate to approximately 17% of the total pledge amount and in year one will equal 85%”.

85% of 39×12 comes to around $400. That is one hell of a slice they are taking there (and that’s assuming everyone is taking the minimal monthly donation – it would be even higher if more people are signing up to $49 or $59 a month).  In the first year Appco have taken $400 and the Red Cross have taken $80 – not exactly a very equitable balance going on there. To argue that 100% of my donation is going to the Red Cross is completely dishonest – it quite clearly is not and it’s clearly fudging the facts to argue otherwise. I understand charities would rather have a regular stream of small amounts being given to them rather than the bulk sum givers who are less reliable and more likely to be affected by emotions (such as the Tsunami gifts). However, to be giving $400 to a third party really does damage their brand in my eyes. Person to person contact is more likely to result in a commitment (or “sale”) but charities have to remember that some of us are very cautious with how the money we give to them is spent. I don’t give to certain charities whose chief executive is getting in my mind far too much compensation for running the charity – is it right that a chief executive of a charity is paid more than the Prime Minister? Ironically, the best paid chief executive in the UK is the boss of the Red Cross. I called the Red Cross up and politely explained to them my issue with this way of selling themselves. My point regarding the 100% figure being at best inaccurate was countered by them saying that only 9% of an average gift is spent on fundraising – fair enough, but those facts have be to be given to the person signing up at the time. They then asked me if I wanted to cancel my direct debit which I did. I’d far rather give the money directly to them via their website without some third party taking their pound of flesh. The problem is after this experience I feel somewhat betrayed – do I want to support a charity that does good things in my community but is quite happy to raise funds via companies who misrepresent to givers where their money is going? In the end, I’ve opted with what I know best – I’m supporting the fund of a hospital where I worked in Niger. I know in this case 100% of my money is actually going to people who need it most. I’m sorry Red Cross – this may be the most cost-effective way of raising money in the short term but there needs to be a bit of thinking about the long term ethical bond with people who support you.



July 8, 2013

So there you go – he’s gone and done it. A job that was starting to gain some traction, a career that was about to burgeon but nope. He chooses to go and resign with no promise of guarantee of a new job.

Yes – I finally did it. I’ve resigned from my surgical job and have started applying to Australia for jobs. Here comes a rather complex time in my life where it will be a stare-off between ambition, self-belief, disillusionment and upheaval.





July 8, 2013

Large amounts of s&^t aka laos. A phenomena that develops in men at any age but the size of the laos grows incrementally with time. The earlier the laos appears, the harder it becomes to remove from the patient.

Well my recent move has given me an opportunity to reconsider how much I need things. I’ve already filled a boxful for the charity shop (who then said they had too many books at the minute so “no thanks” for half of the box) but I’m still stuck with a heteroclite set of bits and bobs across 6 or so curver boxes. Cables, computer keyboards, voltmetres, allen keys… All these things you don’t often need but are so useful when you do. The recent house move has pointed to another unattractive trait of mine – I am chronically messy when it comes to my bedroom. The kitchen on the other hand is obsessively organised. Something obviously is not quite right there…

I’ve also tended to have to keep my office and bedroom in one sole room which does not provide enough lebensraum for my natural proclivity to spread my stuff around.

The more depressing element is that I’m getting a little too old to change and I’m still too young to care. A tidy room is nice but it’s so much effort to keep up I can barely ever keep it tidy for more than a day.

setting up sonitel niger adsl

June 8, 2013

Sonitel (one of Niger’s adsl providers) helpfully give you no information as to how to set things up on their website. Trawl the web and I found no reference to this information so this is the current setup (June 2013)
Your logon will be something like adsl01234567890@sonitel
the password will be just the numbers (this should be your phone number).
then the complicated part (the bit I had to guess and pray for)
vpi/vci 8/81

OK so now if things are working in your favour (i.e. you have electricity, sonitel’s servers have electricity, there’s no dust storm blowing), you should be able to connect. 🙂

Noodler’s inks

May 12, 2009

After humming and hawing for well over a month as to what ink I needed to buy for my fountain pen, I finally came to a decision and purchased two colours. The major issue I had was about having waterproof ink – that’s a must for me due to often getting paper and tea mixed together in a most inappropriate fashion. Bulletproof ink is probably the way to go but then if you get any ink on any item of clothing, that’s it for life (and eternity).

Well Noddler’s inks tend to be very resistant to spillages to I made the dive and bought two bottles of Borealis black and one of Zhivago which is pretty much black but with a greenish tint which comes out most with a broad fountainpen nib. I’m still not sure which on I like the most but both were completely waterproof when I wrote with them and within a minute put the sheet of paper into the water (the paper was the weak link and was not in that great a state when I last looked in the sink).

What is a Christian hipster?

April 30, 2009

Inhabitatio Dei directed me to an interesting blogpost pinpointing quite precisely the shapeshift that has only just started in American Christianity. Funnily enough despite not being American, there were very few references I did not get – more disturbing was that it was almost as if I had written the piece so closely my tastes mirrored the shopping list of the classical Christian hipster bar with the interest in the Pope.

Ironically he doesn’t mention Sufjan Stevens at all in the article (bar the tags) but he features as an icon watching happily over the article like the patron saint of Christian (or should that be Christ-following?) hipsters.

Talking of Sufjan, my obsession with Illinois (aka Come on Feel the Illinoise) is getting out of hand – I don’t think I have listened to any album as much as this one in my life. Maybe Achtung Baby still has a few odd extra listens on it but that was back in 1990 where I had so little money I probably only had a dozen CDs at best. Illinois on the other hand is an oddity – oblique but universal, catchy but very avantgarde in parts, but fundamentally for me, it grapples with the spirituality of the world like few other albums ever have. From the Seer’s tower, the figure of Christ looks out across with the land – the living dead return to life and the alien spaceship becomes a metaphor for the incarnation of God. Parralels to Dylan’s output would be approrpriate if Dylan’s born-again albums weren’t so rum (though they were a heckofalot better than his 80s output!) – note my words: Sufjan will be the enblematic artist of the next decade.

Here’s a beautiful performance of one of the pivotal tracks on his first US state album – Michigan and a great introduction to his theology-meets-humanity approach to songwriting.

Darwin and Faith

April 17, 2009

An interesting program from the BBC – in the usual love-fest that has been the 200 years of Darwin up pops this rather incongruent program by Conor Cunningham (trailer here). Why so bizarre? Well for one, I have seldom (actually I think it’s closer to never) seen a decent deconstruction of the usual attacks on faith by the likes of Dawkins, Dennett and co on mainstream TV. Maybe the fact that they have not often had anyone of faith manning the program is a key problem – the last program I saw had Colin Blakemore, an esteemed scientist but self-avowed atheist/agnostic, to tackle the issue of christianity and science. I guess the closest he came to finding Christians who appealed to him was when he found the Sea of Faith adherents who gave him the answers he wanted (i.e. “is there a God?” “probably not”).

So to a certain extent, it was odd to see Cunningham – theologian/philosopher but also an outspoken Christian – to get to man the commands of this one hour program. From the outset he tells us that he is an ardent believer in evolution but obviously also a man of faith. He then goes about explaining how these two beliefs some would have you believe are in complete contradiction survive very well within his mind.
He does remarkably well in that small space of time to dispel the main myths of what he calls the “ultra-darwinist” dogma, namely that Darwin has dismissed the possibility of anyone believing in God and does an excellent job reviewing the changes and shifts in Christian thought over the last 100 years. I was actually quite ignorant of the fact that even at the times of the Scopes trial, the main defendant of the anti-evolution camp was quite ready to accept an old-earth creation (or quite probably evolution itself) – the main issue was a political one – but not in the way I would have thought. Bryan may have been from right wing of the spectrum in the area of faith but he was quite the opposite in politics – it was his fear of a world ruled by social darwinism that horrified him. Eugenics probably loomed in the distance and he felt that the teaching of darwinism would lead to an uncaring, selfish world.

Some other interesting points were made about orthodoxy regarding the literalism of the Bible, which did rehash Francis Collins argumentation in The Language of God but given that most BBC viewers probably haven’t read it, it was necessary to make those relatively basic facts known.  More frustrating is his very rapid discussion with Simon Conway Morris of evolutionary convergence – it’s a fascinating aspect that should have either been given more time or been left out completely. As things stand, I think the viewers will maybe fail so see the importance of what Morris is explaining is such a small space of time. Still at least he has thrown that concept into the mix and the more assiduous viewers can do some digging online to find out about Morris’ views on the area.

Dawkins’ The Genius of Richard Dawkins Charles Darwin was to me undoubtedly the most shrill and silly assault of the ultra-darwinistic perspective but made for amusing television as Dawkins blinked savagely, feigned personal offence at anyone not agreeing with him 100% and then ripped into intereviewees as if they were audtioning to be Alan Sugar’s next apprentice. As a result, I was quite surprised at the Beeb programming this but must applaud them for taking that risk – if we’re lucky Dawkins may have been so offended he will boycott the BBC with his luminary presence.