Charity sucks!

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Iqbal Wahhab OBE, celebrated entrepreneur and restauranteur wrote an interesting book, published in 2016, entitled Charity Sucks.  He made some good points about the way that charities are evolving – or not in his opinion – and has a view on the ‘outdated and ineffective donations model’.

In simple terms, Mr Wahhab believes charity sucks because business does it better.

It’s pretty hard to argue against the fact that business can do many things better.

But I have a point or two to raise and would welcome Mr Wahhab’s response. Feel free to share and see if six degrees of separation works with this landing on his desk!

First of all, business as a whole unit doesn’t really help charity as much as individuals (or its employees) do. The facts are that of the c.£12bn raised in the UK each year (excluding Government and Trust money), around 14% is donated by business.

This is not a criticism. We applaud all the fundraisers. It is a significant effort for our country, but it does suggest that business is not overwhelmingly engaged with or by charity.

The money raised is then distributed in a wholly unequal manner. 80% of the sector’s income is given to the largest 3.4% of UK charities, and these are also the ones often proudly supported by business and celebrity.

I think you may be getting a picture.

Of the 165,000+ operational charities, 82% are small or micro yet get only 5% of the sector’s income.  It is not clear as to how much of the charitable work this 82% do in our local communities, but I am guessing it’s a lot – and they do it on a shoestring.

I am not sure I know of many businesses that would keep going with these statistics against them. So yes, I suppose I agree the existing donation model is ‘an outdated and ineffective’ model.

In principal it looks like this – choose a charity of the year and donate to it.

This inevitably leads to an imbalance. If you live in the West of England there are 3,500+ charities and thousands more community groups and good causes but the majority will simply be unknown to you so you will never chose them as your charity of the year.

They do not have spare funds to promote or market themselves or their cause, they just get on with it – often supported solely by trusts, foundations or a small group of supportive donors.

How can you know where they are, who they are, what they do? You can’t find them unless you tap in to expert knowledge – like working with a community foundation like Quartet.

So I don’t think Mr. Wahhab is being fair.

Like small business, small charities have excellent capabilities. Unlike small business, those that achieve excellence in their field are not paid for their service.

Many of our small, local charities are managed by creative, intelligent, go-getting, entrepreneurial, exciting minds who are devising and developing new ways to resolve the needs of our community. They are doing it on a tiny budget, without celebrity backing or a media partner – and often on part-time pay and always supported by a committed volunteer board of trustees who normally work elsewhere full time.

So yes, Mr Wahhab. Business would do it better. But they would have salaried employees; get paid for their services; have paid board directors whose sole aim is to drive the business forward.  So their costs would be massively higher.

Would they work for low – or no – pay; receive no income for their service and thrive with part-time occasional board directors?  So no, charity doesn’t suck – it succeeds where business in reality would fail.

Quartet Community Foundation is hoping to encourage business to choose a different way to support charitable organisations and good causes. To choose cause of the year rather than charity of the year so the fundraising can be shared amongst multiple local services rather than one national charity; to think small and local. To support core costs, not just service.

If you would like to find out more about this and our employee engagement programme aligned with your chosen cause, get in touch. 0117 989 7700

Quartet Community Foundation are the West of England’s experts in linking businesses to local good causes.  Using our charity’s 30 years of experience, we’ll help you focus on the key social needs of the area to build an action plan for your charitable goals that makes a real impact on local communities, charities and voluntary organisations.  We also work with business that has a wider geographical base using the network of UK Community Foundations. Contact us on 0117 989 7700 and we’ll help you plan to deliver your that works for your business and local people.