Make your char­ity an­swer­able for the funds you give them

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

IT IS an ax­iom in busi­ness to cut out the mid­dle­man when­ever pos­si­ble, in or­der to max­imise eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency.

Which begs the ques­tion of why phil­an­thropic cit­i­zens mostly don’t bother to max­imise the ef­fect of the largesse they dis­pense.

In­stead of get­ting the dosh to where it is needed – the ac­tual or­phans, abused kid­dies, foot-and­mouth painters, wet­lands, or what­ever it is that tugs their heart­strings – a gen­er­ous but gullible pub­lic in­stead wastes much of what it do­nates on sup­port­ing ex­ces­sively ex­pen­sive ad­min­is­tra­tive struc­tures in th­ese char­i­ties.

An un­happy ex­am­ple is the Na­tional Coun­cil of the So­ci­eties for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals (NSPCA).

First Week­end Ar­gus and now the in­ves­tiga­tive mag­a­zine Nose­week have re­ported on claims that the NSPCA is a viper pit of in­trigue and back­stab­bing, headed by an ex­ec­u­tive mostly in­tent on lux­ury ve­hi­cle al­lowances and big salaries.

While the NSPCA sup­pos­edly spends lav­ishly on its CEO’s perks, the front­line in­spec­tors, work­ing un­der grim, heart-wrench­ing cir­cum­stances, are paid a pit­tance.

Not to for­get the self­less­ness dis­played by thou­sands of en­tirely un­paid vol­un­teers who work shifts at lo­cal SPCAs and rat­tle col­lec­tion tins out­side su­per­mar­kets.

Few peo­ple re­alise when they do­nate to the NSPCA that it is not go­ing to help their lo­cal SPCA take care of the strays wan­der­ing about the streets of their town. That when a slick pro­fes­sional fundraiser tele­phones on be­half of the NSPCA, only a frac­tion of what they whee­dle out of you goes to sup­port the NSPCA units – ex­hi­bi­tion an­i­mals, en­ter­tain­ment and sport, farm an­i­mals, global cam­paigns, wildlife, re­search ethics, and li­ai­son with lo­cal SPCAs – while most goes to ad­min­is­tra­tive over­heads.

Week­end Ar­gus has re­ported on how the Of­fice of the Pub­lic Pro­tec- tor even­tu­ally re­sponded to “nu­mer­ous com­plaints” about the NSPCA, but then de­cided that it had no ju­ris­dic­tion be­cause the NSPCA is a statu­tory body, es­tab­lished by but not re­port­ing to Par­lia­ment and passed the buck to the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture.

So there the mat­ter rests, to the detri­ment of an­i­mal lovers and the an­i­mals they hope to pro­tect.

There is un­for­tu­nately in South Africa no en­tity mon­i­tor­ing char­i­ties to en­sure trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity, as is the case in many other coun­tries.

In an in­ter­view with this colum­nist, NSPCA CEO Mar­celle Mered­ith cheer­fully ad­mit­ted that the NSPCA doesn’t even try to work to best-prac­tice nor ms and that salaries gob­ble 50-55% of the NSPCA’s an­nual rev­enue of some R6m, in­stead of 65% go­ing to work­ing pro­grammes, as is in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­om­mended. Mered­ith fur­ther con­fided that since times are hard, the NSPCA in­tends to aban­don its un­writ­ten agree­ment with the lo­cal SPCAs that it would not com­pete di­rectly with them for funds.

What might or might not be hap­pen­ing in the dog-eat-dog cor­ri­dors of the NSPCA is not an ar­cane mat­ter of in­ter­est only to soft-hearted bunny-hug­gers.

It is up to a char­ity’s mem­bers and vol­un­teers to ex­er­cise over­sight, but since they are fear­ful of in­jur­ing the pub­lic im­age of their favourite cause, th­ese peo­ple are of­ten re­luc­tant to ex­pose mal­prac­tices. This is where donors, large and small, can make the dif­fer­ence.

De­mand the same trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity of your favourite char­ity that you would of busi­ness or gov­ern­ment.

With­hold funds if there is a lack of clar­ity on how it is to be spent. Maybe bet­ter still, if you have any doubts, by­pass the or­gan­i­sa­tional equiv­a­lent of the mid­dle­man and pro­vide suc­cour di­rectly to the needy.

The wid­ows, or­phans and woof­woofs will thank you for it.

Char­ity best prac­tice:

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