“Charity Should Begin a Worthiness League Table, says philanthropy Adviser.” (Article here)
by Martin Brookes
Charities should be ranked according to their benefit to society to discourage self-interested and ill-informed giving, a leading adviser to some of Britain’s biggest philanthropists will say today.
Would-be donors should have access to a “taxonomy” of charities which classifies the most and least worthwhile causes, Martin Brookes, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), will say in a lecture in London on the “morality of charity”.
The proposal, from the head of an organisation that advises some of the City’s wealthiest donors, has already proved controversial among charity bosses, many of whom rely on donors who feel they are “repaying” a benefit they have directly had from the charity or who have personal ties to a cause, according to Brookes.
The concept was last night branded dangerous by Stephen Bubb, the leader of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, while John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation which advises companies and individuals on donations, said giving was “about our vulnerabilities” and a matter of personal preference rather than moral absolutes.
“Getting into arguments about a moral index will make donors very uncomfortable,” said Bubb. “Who decides which is the more moral cause? People need to be better informed but charity has to remain a matter of individual choice.”
Brookes will cite widespread disquiet about some public schools having charitable status as an example that “surely reflects a belief held by many that some things are more clearly charitable and deserving than others”. NPC has previously pointed out that the British public has given more to a Devon donkey sanctuary than to the most prominent charities combatting violence and abuse against women.
“We need to ask whether it is possible to design frameworks that catalogue charitable causes, and, ultimately, charities, according to their field of work,” he will say. “One could then say that certain causes and organisations are inherently more worthwhile than others … Attempts to prioritise charitable causes are valuable, forcing us to question the choices we make when giving away money.”
Brookes believes the decline in the number of people giving must be considered as the context to the debate about how “well” donors give. In 1998, 68% of the population gave and by 2008/09 the figure had dropped to 54% – equivalent to one in eight of the population stopping giving altogether. Britons gave £9.9bn in 2008/09, less than 1% of national income.
He will cite US research, by Hope Consulting, which he believes chimes with UK studies, which shows that 23% of donors support charities which have directly benefited them, while 31% are people who are casual givers or have personal ties to the cause. Just 14% of donors support causes where they think they can generate the most social good.
Almost two-thirds of donors do not research the charities they give to and most of those that do spend no more than a couple of hours, and for the most part are looking to validate their original choice, he will say.
“Perhaps a sensible place to start [with an index] would be a minimal system of prioritising needs,” Brookes will tell the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. “Something like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could be useful. This begins with psychological needs such as food and water’ rising through to safety, belonging, esteem and ending with self-actualisation (such as creativity).”