December 2023
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Save The Children – a few inconvenient truths

Apparently there’s a new service being offered by a website called “CHARITY CHOICE” where you can search for any charity and see how much is spent on good causes. This is meant to help you decide which charity to give to.

There’s only one problem. CHARITY CHOICE seems to use the charities’ own accounts as a basis for their figures. And anyone who believes a charity’s accounts is either extremely naive or worryingly intellectually-challenged or a Guardian reader or a BBC journalist or all of these put together.

For example, Oxfam claims £8.40 of every £10 donated is spent “saving lives”. Lie. The real figure is probably around £6.35:

Charity B

The RSPB puts the £4m it spends on administering its membership into ‘charitable expenditure’ and claims to spend £7.18 of every £10 raised on ‘charitable purposes’. The real figure (as both Sir Ian Botham and I have pointed out) is nearer to £2.57.

My dog has just been looking through the accounts of Save The Children and has raised a few concerns. Save The Children had income of £312.4 in the last financial year and spent £274.8m on ‘charitable expenditure’. Save The Children thus claims that 88p of every £1 raised is “spent on saving children’s lives and giving them a better future”. So, it’s clear that this is a charity that really makes excellent use of our money, isn’t it?

However, my dog points out:

1. The charity’s shops raised £8.496m while costing £6.758m. So, only 28p of every £1 taken by the shops was available for administration and charitable activities

2. Overall, Save The Children raised £312.4m for a cost of £28.4m. That’s £11 raised for every £1 spent on fundraising. But as around £150.7m of Save The Children’s money comes directly from our taxes, whether we want to donate or not, and it gets other money from various foundations and legacies, it’s actually only raising about £103.7m from us – that’s just £3.65 raised for every £1 spent fundraising – not great

3. My stupid dog was also concerned by the rent Save the Children pays – an amazing £3.346m a year on its head office and another £4.576m on its offices around the world many of them in some of the world’s poorest countries where rents should really be quite low

4. In addition, my dog noticed that Save The Children’s top executives all had wonderful inflation-protected, final salary pensions. The pension scheme for Save The Children’s bosses had assets of £83.9m but liabilities of £117.5m meaning it had a deficit of £33.6m. However, Save The Children was paying in about £4.332m extra of our donations into this pension scheme each year to ensure its retired bosses never went hungry

5. Being rather cynical, my dog pointed out that the growth projections for the Save The Children’s bosses’ pension fund were 7% per annum. Given that interest rates on most bonds are less than 2% and that average stock-market returns are less than 4%, my dumb dog felt the Save The Children’s bosses’ pension scheme shortfall would rise and ever more of money, that should be spent saving children, would actually go into saving Save The Children’s bosses’ pensions

6. The charity was invoiced £584,394 (2011: £258,268) for advertising and creative services provided by Adam & Eve DDB during the year, one of whose directors is the brother of the charity’s Chief Executive

In summary, my dog was less than impressed with Save The Children.

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