When is a charity not a charity?

Published: Thursday, 27 September 2018

THE charity sector in recent years has, without doubt, become more polarised between the big charities like the National Trust, the RSPB, CaRT et al and the small 'Real Charities' run by enthusiasts, writes Ralph Freeman.

An example:- Greyhound Trust (Hall Green Branch).

Bear with me a little while, whilst I describe a charity that I do work for that re-homes ex-racing greyhounds. My local branch is characterized by the following:

Run totally by enthusiastic volunteers

Highly focused and motivated group of people from all walks of life with a clear focus—to re-train and re-home greyhounds to suitable homes and run totally by enthusiastic volunteers

Strict control on spending. Everyone knows where the money comes from and it's not growing on trees!
No full time paid staff, so no executive cars and so-called 'managers'.

No fancy offices for admin volunteers, they work from home on their own equipment (phones computers etc.)

Those in charge have worked with greyhounds for years and usually have some(!) of their own so they have hands-on experience.

Now I think you will agree that is more or less what Joe Public thinks of (and expects?) when the word 'charity' is used.

Lost the plot?

The sort of charity I have described above exists in all sorts of spheres and no doubt the forerunners of the National Trust, RSPCA, RSPB all started out like that.

However, with time, I suggest they have ceased to be charities at all and have become self serving institutions where money is the key factor, not 'doing good'. In other words they have lost the plot.

The three charities above have all been subject to bad publicity of late resulting from dubious actions which had much more to do with big business (bullying) and not charitable work. The original reason the charity was formed is still relevant, but is now being ignored by those in charge, except in the glossy brochures of course!

Little or no knowledge

Might I suggest that is because those in charge are paid mega salaries and are ex-business people. More than likely they have little or no knowledge of the reason the charity was formed and probably care even less. (I wonder how many of the 80+ managers on six figure salaries in CaRT ever set foot on a narrowboat?)

In other words to them it's just a job and their salary/bonus package, usually £100k+ and an executive car, is what really matters; sod the punters who part with their hard earned cash on the assumption it will do good.

The really sad thing is the real enthusiasts that are the core of any charity have long since fled. Spending large amounts of money on overheads, then telling volunteers there is little money available for worthwhile projects does not go down well. Besides would you work out in all weathers only to be told what to do by 'an ego in a suit' taking megabucks out of the donation tin who knows little of value to the trust? I don't think so...

Charities Commission

Is there a Charities Commission you may ask? Well there is but it's totally ineffectual!

Surely one would expect the Commission to send out auditors to the multi-million pound charities to see where the donations are going? If as is the case with many probably 75%+ is absorbed by admin costs and unnecessary expenses, then shouldn't those charities lose their charitable status?

Lets be clear here the charity is not doing 'what it says on the tin' so in reality is it not perpetrating fraud! If an individual set up a company that took in cash but didn't provide the goods/services promised, how long would it be before the trading standards or even the police became involved?

Indeed it has come to light that some charities were just fronts for tax evasion and money laundering! They existed for years before the likes of Private Eye blew the whistle on them.

The Result

So we now have many large charities with multi million pound turnovers that can do exactly as they please with that money with no monitoring or accountability. Are you listening CaRT?

I'm sure many boaters like me that have project management/business experience would love to spend a few months in the winter 'monitoring' CaRT and it's use of boaters' and other donated funds!

The likes of Alan Richards does his best to extract data from CaRT, but I know from experience how easy it is to 're-allocate' costs from one sector to another and in so doing render the figures all but useless, by hiding the true costs.


As the renowned Benjamin Disraeli told Parliament, there are three kinds of lies—'lies, damned lies and statistics', the latter that CaRT have now resorted to in its spin and propaganda on just about all fronts, so why should we trust the figures it publishes every year? Are they not likely to be as fake as its press releases? Who checks their veracity; auditors paid by CaRT perhaps?

So the question I ask is seeing as CaRT is unaccountable can we believe what it is telling to cover it's tracks on maintenance issues?

CaRT is certainly not properly maintaining the canals—the number of summer stoppages proves that.

I rest my case.