Letter to the Editor: Charity begins at home for managers

Letter to the Editor: Charity begins at home for managers

Considering that most national charities rely on volunteerism to operate their plethora of fund-raising templates, it would seem only right that the managerial classes could exhibit a modicum of the same generosity of spirit. Not that they should get paid peanuts, but cream buns might suffice rather than caviar.

The whole charity sector is rife for cynical exploitation by opportunistic ‘business’ types on the back of genuine charity idealism for which Ireland has been renowned.

A few years ago, one of the major health charities in the country with ultra-high profile, was rumbled for its massive €20m turnover distribution. Highly-paid staff salaries accounted for around €12m; profiling/promotion/advertising etc, for roughly €4m; and a mere €4m or so for the actual delivery of services. Thus, only around 20% of funds were spent on front-line assistance, for which the charity was created.

Shocking though this is, there have been other even more disturbing distortions highlighted that don’t warrant illuminating again.

It seems nowadays that anyone can set about creating a charity enterprise, picking a spuriously perceived ‘need’ and go about their business development plan exhorting the general public to pony up, so that they can enjoy, in the first instance, a CEO-type salary, before they go about enacting their ‘supportive’ philosophies.

One could, it seems, set up the ‘Ingrown Toenail Society’ to garner some super-income. After all, there are many people suffering with ingrown toenails, who get little or no support.

A couple of years ago, I enquired about volunteering to a regional office of a major homeless charity.

To enlist, I was advised of the evening orientation programmes I’d be required to attend in advance (at my own expense, as I had to travel etc). Inspecting the organisation further, I realised that the local ‘CEO’ enjoyed a salary of €90,000, with five other staff on €60,000 plus. Ostensibly the major fund-raising drives for the organisation were selflessly delivered by a vast team of unpaid volunteers, who probably weren’t aware of where the bulk of their efforts were directed.

Duplication, competition and machination seem to be the key trends and tenets within the charity sector. One notes (not surprisingly) from the 2018 accounts of the Charities Institute Ireland, the CEO received a salary of €85,000 out of a total turnover of around €700,000, ie over 12%.

Handy work if you can get it! This is a body which carries out zero charity work directly, but claims to promote the ‘interests’ of a range of national charities, lobbying on their behalf and pushing for top salaries of the CEOs and other staff thereof.

One wonders of course what was wrong with the Wheel organisation which offered comprehensive support and guidance templates to all charities and voluntary organisations, for an altruistically worthy moderate recompense.

For the bigger players, it seems charity begins at home.

Jim Cosgrove

Chapel St

Lismore

Co Waterford

- This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 14 August 2019.

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