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Is Britain’s bloated charity industry making fools of us all?

(weekend blog)

It’s the time of the year for giving. And one group of people who rather hope we’ll all give generously are Britain’s many charities. So, let’s have a quick look at what really goes on in Britain’s charity industry.

Over 200,000 charities raking in over £85bn!!!

The 185,000 charities registered in England and Wales pulled in £83,801,516,308 in the latest financial year. Then there are probably another 24,000 charities in Scotland raising about £850m and a few more in Northern Ireland, though the Northern Irish charity regulator apparently hasn’t quite got around to counting them yet, to be sure. All in all, there are probably well over 200,000 registered charities in the UK. So there is a registered charity for every 300 UK residents. And these 200,000+ charities are raking in comfortably over £85bn a year.

Moreover, this figure of 200,000+ charities doesn’t include about another 200,000 or so additional charities which don’t need to register with any of Britain’s three charity regulators as they’re either too small (e.g. a local scouts group or a charity taking in less than £5,000 a year) or exempted from registration.

But if you add up:

  • all the animals we want to save – elephants, rhinos, donkeys, cats, dogs, newts etc etc
  • all the diseases we want to cure – cancer, Alzheimers, malaria, MND etc etc
  • all the problems we want solve – poverty, homelessness, mental issues etc etc

There’s no way you will reach 200,000+ worthy causes. In fact, you’d probably struggle to think of more than 500 causes to donate money to. This suggests that there is massive duplication, triplication, quadruplication and worse with loads of charities all doing very similar things.

For example, the Charity Commission lists 620 cancer charities alone and more than 200 charities working with homeless people just in London. That means lots of lucrative jobs for charity industry insiders and an awful lot of the £85bn we donate going into the obviously worthy bank accounts of lucky charity industry insiders.

The ‘voluntary sector’???

Charities like to be thought of as working selflessly in the ‘voluntary sector’. And it’s true that there are probably over seven million good folk who do dedicate some of their time to charity work. But in just England and Wales, there are an astonishing 1,467,941 charity employees and probably another couple of hundred thousand more in Scotland and Northern Ireland making charity one of Britain’s largest industries. About an almost unbelievable one in every 20 working employees in the UK is employed by a charity.

Spawning like flies on a turd?

You might have thought that with more than 200,000 charities and more than 1,500,000 employees, Britain had pretty much every problem known to humans covered by at least one and more usually many charities. How wrong you would have been. Around 5,000 new charities are registered each year. That’s about 100 new charities every week – about 20 every working day.

Lucky charity industry insiders gobbling ever more of your money?

The main charity regulator for England and Wales until recently claimed that around £8 of every £10 donated gets used for ‘charitable activities’. But a study of leading cancer charities by Manchester Business School found that, in 1997, just 65% of money raised was spent on the cause, compared to 90% in 1992.

Across all charities, the average was 67% spent on charitable causes in 1997, compared to 80% five years earlier. I suspect that now at most probably only around 50% of the money we donate gets anywhere near to causes that we intended it to be used for.

In many of the charities I’ve looked at when writing my book THE GREAT CHARITY SCANDAL, less than half the money donated went anywhere near the good causes to which it was intended. In one memorable case, a charity’s three founders paid themselves over £270,000 in consultancy fees – about £90,000 each – while using just over £14,000 on the purpose for which their supposed ‘charity’ was supposedly funded. And that’s far from being an isolated example.

The more charities there are, the more of our money they seem to use to pay themselves. Moreover, the more they have to compete with each other for our money, the less of our donated money is actually used for genuine charitable purposes.

Ten out, one in?

Charity has become an out-of-control monster gobbling up every more of our money to feed itself and leaving ever less of our money to be used for genuine charitable purposes. Instead of busily registering ever more new charities at a rate of around 100 new charities every week, our hopelessly misnamed ‘charity regulators’ should institute a “10 out, 1 in” policy – allow one new charity to register for every ten charities that close down.

But that would never happen as it would mean fewer lucrative jobs for our ever more greedy, holier-than-thou, well-paid charity industry gravy-train-riders.

8 comments to Is Britain’s bloated charity industry making fools of us all?

  • Brenda Blessed

    In short, the charity industry is probably the largest industry in the UK.

    How about doing an exposé, if necessary, on outfits, such as JustGiving, that takes 6% of the donations to have charities fundraising from its website?

  • William Boreham

    As most of my friends and relatives automatically put their hands in their pockets when face with the various charity requests, I must download this article. I see the NHS Charities Together have ‘raised eyebrows’ with a disturbing advert showing Santa Claus in hospital struggling to breathe with Covid-like symptoms. I saw this amusing comment following the newspaper report on that subject: “Funnily enough, after watching a “Poirot” last night, I had a browse around the TV channels, and most were showing adverts. I didn’t take much notice, as they were quite obviously aimed at African families, so that does not include me. Makes life easy, I will spend my cash elsewhere.”
    I’m sure an alien viewing our adverts these days from space would assume Britain was an African country. Recently saw a bank advert featuring 5 people and only one was an identifiably indigenous white person. I doubt we will feature at all when we become a minority in our own country in when? – 30-40 years? I’ve seen a site showing that the USA will be minority white in 23 years time.

  • Loppoman

    And the normal is displayed as the black male needs to have a white female.
    Yes, the adverts feature 75% blacks, very few other minorities. The answer is to take note and don’t buy these products. Supermarkets are very guilty of this, unfortunately. They all think that we don’t notice!

  • A Thorpe

    At least charitable donations are not taxation, we do have a choice. I cannot see any justification for the government tax credits. Imagine how much worse it would be without all the free time and effort the royal family and celebrities put into charitable work. What did Bob Geldof achieve with Feed the World – a knighthood.

    The purpose seems to be to help and solve problems, but the problems never get solved. The homeless are given free meals and night shelters are provided on cold nights for street sleepers, but the problem hasn’t been solved. There is no incentive for a charity to solve a problem because then it would have to close and since there is no accountability they carry on.

    This article is about the UK, what about charities in other countries?

  • Loppoman

    On the radio – some Xmas charity looking for donations of £28.22. What’s the script there?

  • Delta 1

    Sadly, I must confess to being increasingly sceptical about some charities. Their chief executives earn an inordinate amount of money and a lot of our donations go towards paying them. Shouldn’t they be more charitable?

  • Stillreading

    I find the charity industry – because that’s what it is – quite repellent now. All the nationally and internationally known charities spend an inordinate amount of what is extracted from hard-up pensioners, eking out meagre pensions, on salaries for their highly paid executives. They rely on taking us all on a gigantic guilt trip. Just don’t embark on it. Give, as I do, to a small local or specialized charity, one dedicated to educating UK youngsters in my case, where you can actually witness the frequently astonishingly gratifying results which can be achieved and where you know that almost every penny goes to its intended target, since the Trustees themselves work for nothing more than reimbursement of any truly essential expenses. Never forget that all these “celebrities” begging on our screens for our money are being paid large amounts for their services.

  • Quentin

    I think you’re missing how small charities can be. For instance, I am a member of a Bridge club which is a charity.

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