Make your charity answerable for the funds you give them
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: