Archive for the ‘Fund Raising’ Category

Baubles to Charity Christmas Cards

Charity Christmas Cards

As the post Christmas clear up started I  reviewed  a selection of Christmas cards. The sample may be slightly slanted towards our circle of contacts but there are some common themes.

  • 57% 0f all cards had glitter and or foil that rendered them useless for recycling (44% of them were charity cards so they demonstrate slightly more concern for the environment)
  • Only 20% of all cards had a Christian theme and of those the largest group represented carols rather than religious scenes.
  • It appears that 74% of the sample were ‘charity cards’ or so it implies on the reverse of the card. ( That may be open to interpretation see below)
  • Only one e-card (1%) was received and there was little thought demonstrating concern for the environment and recycling.
  • For various reasons it seems as though charities sub-optimise the contribution these cards could make but perhaps rely on buyer inertia.

The Mercenary Bit

  • 70% of the charity cards were for single  individual causes. To me these are ‘true charity cards’. Some would be published on behalf of the charity others self published. It was not practical to understand how these had been sold for example direct through supporters and members or via various retailers. The return to the charity could vary considerably.
  • 30% of cards claimed to be in aid of more than one charity and were generally promoted by single major retailers including supermarkets and chains. These I call  ‘feel good cards’.
    • Two types of charitable fund raising were apparent – the lump sum approach was favoured by Tesco, Morrisons and M&S among others. A fixed donation sum was highlighted on the back of the card of between £50,000 and £350,000.
      That did not seem to relate to the volume or value of the card purchased. Perhaps it related more to the retailers  ‘corporate social responsibility agenda’.
    • The other method, a percentage of sale price was used by  Waitrose and Debenhams  contributing 10-20% or 10p per pack. That is more in line with what a purchasor would expect. The Debenham Foundation reg 1147682 raises over £1.75m over the year on various charitable activities.

Observations & Issues


As with many things the devil is in the detail. Even if it seems Scrooge like the card issue is worth giving some deeper thought.

  • It is my view that some of the charities had settled for an easy contribution to avoid the effort of organising a sensible fund raising operation of their own. Some retailers take a marketing advantage by offering low return for the charity cards sold.
  • Other parts of the supply chain including wholesalers, printers packers etc benefit from the card trade sales but it is unclear if or how they contribute to charity.
  • The cards commissioned for individual charities and those who arrange their own direct sales are likely to make the largest charitable contributions. Admittedly this carries some risk and administrative burdens.
  • No cards appeared to use the ‘promotional opportunity’ to solicit donations, highlight current isues or recruit new supporters with adverts and links.


One card came via a defunct publisher with a strong link to 1124224 – THE PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL CHARITY

In previous years funds of circa £30k per annum  were raised primarily for a range of charities through Christmas card sales made by the publisher ‘phoenix trading’ which went into administration in 2017. This bust outfit morphed into a phoenix itself called Flamingo Paperie for 2018 Christmas card sales. Call me cynical but the claim of ‘in excess of £1,887,000 worldwide fundraising’ beggars belief.



A Dickens of a Going on at The Retailers Charity


In the 19th century when Charles Dickens was chairman this charity was called the ‘Warehousemen & Clerk’s School’ subsequently renamed Purley Children’s Trust, The Textile Industry’s  Children’s Trust and now glorying under the current name and focus. It helps the children of folk who have worked for more than a year in clothing retail, clothing manufacture, laundry or fashion.

Even today these sectors seldom offer secure, well paid jobs. In the UK the demise of so many retail outlets and foreign clothes imports has added to the stress such a charity may feel on behalf of their ‘clients’. Indeed they have helped 547 children at a cost of £198,184 this year but currently report on the website ‘…just a quick note to say we know we’ve been a bit quiet on this front recently. We’ve had a few comings and goings over the last few months, so things have been a bit up in the air!   ..’

I wanted a charity in this space where I could be positive and able to help as I can envisage a significant need. Large corporate mismanagement, high street closures, pension and redundancy problems must be depressing for staff in these areas. After looking through their reports and accounts  I have a couple of issues.

  • They have £8,950,000 pounds in reserves potentially built up over many decades of prudent even parsimonious policies and a school sale. At current levels of new grant  money already in the bank could cover 30 years further grants.
  • Have the charity added ‘Fashion’ to be in the fashion of broadening their remit to attract more requests from grantees? Is there an inclination to add to the core charitable remit rather than excelling on the real job to be done.
  • Salary costs are conservative but the ‘cost of raising funds’ at £95k is too high when only £36k is raised from donations and trading. The main 95% of  income comes from historic investment income. Hence there is little or no incentive for new donors to become involved.
  • The 600+ year old Drapers Company 251403 makes grants in similar areas including Education and Young People , Social Welfare and Textiles and Heritage with it’s £65m funds. Despite a higher income, reserves and profile I am still not sure they do a better job.

Charitable Donations on Death

The fatal plane crash that killed the Compass tycoon Richard Cousins highlights a need for sensible provisions in last will and testaments. Oxfam are set to benefit from a ‘common tragedy clause’ in Mr Cousins will that left the residue of the estate, worth £41m, in the unlikely event that he and his two sons were killed in the same event.

A more standard clause, one I use, nominates a charity to receive the residue of an estate if no living relatives or dependent claimants can be found.

An out right bequest of a fixed or sometimes variable sum is more common.  Oxfam alone received £20m in gifts through wills last year and after recent PR disasters will be grateful for all contributions.

HM Revenue and Customs allow ‘people who inherited a deceased’s household and personal goods but wish to donate some or all of them to a UK charity to deduct a charity exemption against the value of the estate.

Any property forming part of the deceased’s estate which passes on death to charity is exempt from Inheritance Tax (IHT). Gifts to certain national bodies, such as museums and art galleries or political parties also qualify for a similar exemption.

A deed of variation is a document designed to redirect inheritance in someone’s will and can be used to benefit charities and may reduce IHT.

Large estates and national treasures have been accepted by HMRC in payment or part payment of IHT.

World Cancer Research opacity

World Cancer Research Fund UK is registered with the Charity Commission in England and Wales (Registration Charity No. 1000739). Around 90 per cent of the funding comes from the UK public via an active mail shot programme with the remainder donated by business, trusts and foundations.

The grants they make for research are smaller than 10% of annual income which totals around £8m. The largest expenditures are on mail shots for fundraising 25% and human resources another 25% of income. This  includes £80,000 salary for chief executive and co founder Marylin Gentry who also received $454,873  as CEO American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Other expenditure is mainly on AICR contributions, publications, data bases and information to ‘raise awareness that the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food, nutrition, physical activity and weight management.’

The UK charity along with AICR is a member of a network led  by World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF International).

Americanised Fund Raising

Mail shots regularly include free greeting cards and a dozen self adhesive address labels. pretty much unwanted in my case.

In the recent accompanying letter the P.S. jarred ‘if you make only one contribution to help fight to prevent cancer this year please use the enclosed envelope …………..’

It is 20 years since complaints about World Cancer Research Fund’s fundraising mailshot methods which had been imported from USA. The charity commission found nothing wrong and now may be the time to apply the right to be forgotten. What goes with that right is the need to apply professional standards and pushing for contributions to  your cancer charity above all others jars with that ethos.

Inflating Your Donations

Increasing regular charity contributions is now a well practiced art or even a science. I  am currently considering some requests from various charities that have demonstrated an inflationary increase. The inflation that concerns me covers more than the economic version relating to increased prices but covers inflating by making something bigger (like a balloon about to burst?) I will leave legacy marketing  and recruitment drives for future posts.

Donation Inflation

In a 2017 mail shot from the Red Cross for Easter Donations they specifically requested £87, £168, or £344 donations. Strange and not insignificant sums, perhaps they were originally priced in Euros. On the response slip there was space for a different amount ‘whatever you feel able to give’ but by then I was disengaged. Looking at some of their current web campaigns £30, £50 and £100 are the default requests for example UK Solidarity, Yemen Crisis, The Disaster Fund and many others. The Syrian Fund starts by requesting the lower sum of £10.

Historically standing orders and direct debits were popular ways of attracting donations to charities and £2 was a very common and largely pain less starting point. This has morphed into a base £5 and added to that there are the regular ‘extra requests’.

Yesterday the RSPB mailed members including my self with a request to give £10, £25 or £50 to help ‘Coasts in Crisis’. I admit to a preference for helping the Marine Conservation Society but have asked the RSPB if the Coasts in Crisis funds will be ring fenced specifically to the needs identified in the request. So far I have received no reply and I fear the donations will end up within general income.( A speedy reply from RSPB advised me that Coast Crisis funds will indeed be ring fenced and kept separate to be used just for the nominated purpose. A big star for that reply.)

We are all victims of our own prejudices as I showed above preferring MCS to RSPB . In that vein I do not begrudge the Big Issue where street vendors buy the magazine for £1.25 and sell it for £2.50 even though I remember it’s inception in 1991 when it cost far less and twice as many people supported the cause.

With a new Chairman at the National Trust and a traumatic year behind them you may have expected NT to batten down the hatches. Not a bit of it, they have increased the membership fees for 2018 by 6.5% (the current RPI is 1.1% and consumer price index 0.3% ONS). This is despite squirreling away shares and investments of  over £1,237,000,000 or one and a quarter billion pounds.  Each year it costs over a million pound just to look after that many equities! The Trust seems arrogant, complacent, well out of touch and in danger of loosing public trust.

Read more Dissing the National Trust.

Donation Inflation Concerns

  • Even in these few examples there seems to be a concerted attempt to ‘up the ante’ when it comes to generating more income. Because they can doesen’t mean they should!
  • Donors may rightly feel they are being fleeced by charity staff seeking expansion without just cause. Bigger isn’t always beautiful.

Concerted Fund Harvesting by Just4Children

Just4Children registered as 1164473 – JUST HELPING CHILDREN is fund raising for children to receive medical treatment, therapies, living environments, equipment and holidays that would not otherwise be available to them.

From what seems to be a standing start they have been a funding success, raising £948,000 in the first twelve months of operation to September 2016. It will be fascinating to see the 2017 accounts  probably not available until June next year.

The Basic Financial Model

The prime aim is for the ‘relief of sickness and preservation of health of children’ and this is achieved by managing the fund raising efforts of family, friends and the public primarily using individual children cases.

Individual fund raising pages are set up under the charities brand powered by Just Giving. The resulting income and other ‘designated funds’  collected through targeted fundraising campaigns are held by the charity pending expenditure.

General funds are raised from donations via methods and platforms other than Just Giving. Fund raising activities include collecting in public houses, a ‘weather lottery’ and many beneficiaries efforts.

The first year’s accounts reported over 70 case studies of individual children with ‘identified needs and desires’ that included; intensive Oxygen Therapy in Slovakia, £35,000 for physiotherapy and care in Canada  from a pioneering rehabilitation centre, American treatment, at a cost of  £300,000 for a boy with intractable epilepsy, £15,000 to fund post ‘Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy’ operation therapy and other examples.


  • Funds are ‘Unrestricted Designated funds’ or unrestricted general funds. There are currently no restricted funds. The legal distinctions may not be obvious to contributors or beneficiaries.
  • Conflicts may arise if the required sum is not reached or the need for treatment changes.
  • When using the many other recommended methods of raising funds for a specific case the software did not seem to guarantee the funds would be accurately designated.
  • The charity is breaking new ground in a difficult and emotion driven area. Progressively more time will be needed to monitor bad faith cases, unacceptable treatments, exploiters and manipulators. Is the organisation a gatekeeper and financier rather than a provider of medical assistance and support.
  • Even large charities like Action for Children with 150 times more annual income than Just4 children  and 140+ years behind them can disappear. Scope could not come to charitable terms with new Cerebral Palsy procedures. It is not a comfortable life being a trustee.

What is in a Name

Looking at one aspect of one charity, (in this case fund raising in a public house and Just4Children) many varied issues may surface. In a confusion of names Just4Children is a registered charity called Just Helping Children 1164473.  In a further confusion their  marketing and fund raising should not be confused with Just4Kids 1151263 aka Chloe’s and Sophie’s Special Ears Fund.  Action for Children helped children and young people for 148 years until Septemebr 2016 when it was put into administration along with brand names 4Children, 4Children (Trading) Limited, 4Children (Direct) Limited, 4Children (Gloucestershire) Limited, 4Children (Plymouth) Limited, 4Children (Worcestershire) Limited (collectively “the Charity”) all in administration.

Regulating the Fundraising Regulator

The Fundraising Regulator (FR)

  • The FR is to be funded to the tune of £ 1.75 million by contributions from the circa 1500 charities that have spent at least £100,000 per annum on fundraising activities. Is this a tax on your donations? It sure is a cost to the charities.
  • As custodians of the Code of Fundraising Practice FR are making changes to emphasise that any activity involving personal data falls under data protection laws.  From May 2018 there will be new sections in the code on Data Protection and Direct Marketing
  • The FR will also expand definitions of “processing”, “consent” “legitimate interest” and  relevant terms.
  • In December 2017 FR announced that it has scrapped its annual complaints report and will not publish complaints for two years.  Oh that is alright then, no problem, it is what you would think you  are paying for even if you were unaware.
  • The FR defines teleappending as ‘where a charity identifies a telephone number for a supporter on their database where that person has not provided their telephone details, but hasn’t objected to phone calls.’   mmm watch this space.

Other Regulators

  • In a recent announcement the Charity Commission has been awarded extra funding from the Government of £5 million per year to help it respond to significant increases in demand as a interim solution. The regulator will consult on the option of another levy probably on the largest charities. Bearing in mind the FR levy this sounds like deja vu.
  • Currently the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) receives an annual grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to  undertaking there statutory duties in respect of freedom of information. From May 2018 new charges will replace the system with three tiers based on  size, turnover and whether an organisation is a public authority or charity. Costs will vary with large organisations increasing payments from £40 to £2900. Remember two years ago when the ICO fined the RSPCA and British Heart Foundation £25,000 and £18,000 respectively for breaches under the Data Protection Act 1998 including wealth screening and donor profiling.
  • Auditors are required by all charities with an income over £1 million, or with an income over £250,000 and with gross assets over £3.26 million.


In the December 2017 report from the Charities commission in England and Wales they report there are 168,237 registered charities with a combined gross income in excess of £75 billion.


Begging Letters & Incentive Gifts

Charity fund raisers annoy their potential donors with unnecessary ‘gifts’ such as pens, printed labels, cards even unwanted badges and lapel items. It is a double whammy of annoyance if some of these items arrive in a begging letter.

Begging Letters

  1. The scourge of begging letters continues despite the establishment in July 2017 of a new Fundraising Preference Service that was set up by the Fundraising Regulator (FR). This new scheme allows individuals to have their names and addresses removed from charity databases. On the FR website you can select up to 3 registered charities at a time to block these communications – cumbersome but better than nothing according to the estimated 10,000 users. Theoretically unsolicited, targeted mailshots should then become a thing of the past. Too late for Olive Cooke the lady who committed suicide in 2015 after receiving thousands of begging letters that she felt some compulsion to respond too.
  2. What of the rest of the iceberg in the form of anonymised mailshots such as ‘Dear Householder’ or magazine inserts of an unaddressed envelope containing a request for financial contributions. The FR believe 250 million such anonymous letters are produced and sent annually. It keeps printers, envelope manufacturers and marketeers in business but is it the business of charities to engage in such a high volume of begging activity. Using sophisticated software even the annonymised letters can be targeted to a post code or even a postman’s walking route where the sender hopes to get a higher response.

Incentive Gifts

  1. Over a third of complaints to FR are about begging letters and unnecessary gifts and incentives. Behind these complaints are the feeling that the money is wasted and should be spent on the charitable purpose.
  2. There is potentially a perverse blackmail element when a ‘charity’ sends you something for nothing you may feel pressured to donate.
  3. Members of the public feel a lack of control over such fundraising approaches. In many cases it acts as a deterrent not an incentive to be involved with that charity.
  4. It is down to a personal choice and the majority are happy to wear a ‘poppy with pride’ but many do not want to be a walking advert wearing a sticky label or affinity badge.
  5. Lord Grade the Chair of the FR has a bit of a thing about ‘plastic pens’ and would like to put a stop to their indiscriminate distribution. Also on his list of fundraising miss selling are intrusive and overly aggressive telephone calls, pressurised legacy seeking, and some texting, emailing and social media methods.(In the worst cases this may include wealth screening, data matching, tele-appending and reuse of public information)


  • Charity provides different strokes for different folks and shouldn’t be micro managed at the expense of missing the major problems such as legality, probity, honesty and integrity.
  • A plastic pen or daffodil is not a big bribe nor to many an appropriate incentive but is it such a big deal.
  • No one is under an obligation to pay for unsolicited mailings of charity cards or personalised address labels.

Evangelical about Money


In 1882 Wilson Carlile established The Church Army with a vision to train ordinary Christian men and women to reach those most in need with the gospel. Carlile started to hold open air gatherings where he would encourage grooms, coachmen and other working people to share their faith in both words and action. As The Church Army grew Carlile also focused the charity’s work on the slums of Westminster – one of the darkest spots in London.

 Charitable Activities


The charity claims ‘EVERY £1 YOU DONATE GOES TO OUR FRONTLINE’ except looking after £31m of reserves and assets has significant costs and this plus raising funds of £6m pa costs over a £1m! Thus at least a sixth of every £1 does not go to the frontline.

Reserves are 6 times the annual expenditure . Perhaps new plans will see more of the reserves dedicated to helping the homeless.

Balancing the Balance Sheet

Perhaps these extracts from the published accounts go some way to explaining why so much is spent on funding matters:’

  • Derivative financial instruments are initially measured at fair value at the date on which a derivative contract is entered into and are subsequently measured at fair value through profit or loss.We employ derivatives for the purposes of reducing risk in the portfolios.
  • Exchange traded forward currency contracts are held for hedging all or part of the overseas currency exposure in the portfolio. Other derivatives are held within the Ruffer Protection Strategies Fund
  • The Society holds a variety of basic financial instruments as part of its day-to-day activities, principally investments, bank deposits and accounts
  • The investment managers at times use hedges as part of a cautious investment strategy to reduce the underlying risks in the
    portfolio, but do not actively seek to invest in hedge funds.
  • The Investment properties for which fair value can be measured reliably without undue cost or effort are measured at fair value
  • Current asset investments include cash on deposit and cash equivalents.’

Charity Lottery ‘and the Winners are for Profit’

Charities across many sectors must think they have won the lottery!  From Oxfam to the Royal Mencap Society, Fire Fighters to Sue Ryder there are a burgeoning number of number of ‘lottery schemes’ to redistribute your wealth. The Gambling Commission records 520 licensed lotteries that range from big bookies to bigger charities.

The  for Profit Sector

Google ads for these schemes rake in money for guess who? You got it, Google! TV ads are becoming more frequent for example back to back ITV 3 adverts for the  Cats Protection lottery and the RNIB must have cost a few months prize money. ‘Your Charity Lottery’  works in conjunction with Dove House Hospice Ltd   509551 – and says it offers other charities and fundraising groups the opportunity to add a weekly draw to their fundraising portfolio’.

Set up and management costs for these schemes must have been calculated to be cheaper than other fund raising activities, or more likely it is just one more money raising method. Private commpaies have latched on to the opportunity for their business eg. ‘ Zaffo can manage lotteries, raffles, prize draws, free prize draws, instant win games’…….. ‘ Woods is already leading the market. We act as an external Lottery manager, providing clients with a comprehensive charity lottery service ……….’  ‘Clubdraw is designed to give good causes large and small – from village playground fund to international club – the chance to gain support and raise valuable funds through their own weekly lottery draw ………’ Other similar organisations are available.

The Gambling Commission

A lottery is a kind of gambling which has three essential ingredients:
■You have to pay to enter the game
■There is always at least one prize
■Prizes are awarded purely on chance

Types of lottery under the Gambling Act 2005 are classified as

Small society lotteries The society in question must be set up for non-commercial purposes eg sports, cultural or charitable. There is a top limit of £20,000 in ticket sales.

Large society lotteries Similar to the small society lottery, but there is a minimum of £20,000 in ticket sales and more onerous controls.

Local authority lotteries to help with any expenditure it normally incurs. They must hold a Gambling Commission licence.

The following types of lottery do not require permission.

  • Private society lotteries must raise money for the purposes for which the society is conducted or to raise funds to support a charity or good cause. No rollovers.
  • Work lotteries for colleagues who work at the same single set of premises/people who live on the same single set of premises. No rollovers. make no profit or be to raise funds for a charity or good cause.
  • Customer lotteries can only be run by a business, at its own premises and for its own customers. No prize can be more than £50 in value. This type of lottery cannot make a profit, and so is unsuitable for fundraising. No rollovers.
  • Incidental lotteries  can be held at commercial events (such as exhibitions) or non-commercial events (such as school fetes) and must be for charitable or other good causes. They cannot be run for private or commercial gain.


  • Is enough of the donor/player cash returned to the good or charitable cause.
  • Both the Gambling and Charity commissions have supervision roles and need to be coordinated to prevent abuse.
  • Gambling is a potential problem for those less able to manage their finances. Our local Credit Union (set up to to help borrowers) is happy to promote its regular lottery and annual raffle.

Good and Bad Alzheimer’s

There are 69 registered charities that come up on a search for dementia or Alzheimer’s. This post contrasts the largest from the charity commission list and a registered charity that didn’t even feature in the 69 from the search.

Alzheimer’s Society Benchmark Facts & Figures

  • Annual income to March 2016 £100 million
  • 2,550 staff 10,000 volunteers –
  • Income has grown 40% in 5 years
  • Over 80% of income is spent on charitable activities
  • Cost of fundraising is 16% Income is derived more or less equally from Donations 37% and  Contracts 36% with Legacies 23% an important contributor.
    Investment income, trading and other is 4%

Alzheimer’s Society  spends £6.5m on research grants but delivers the majority of service via staff including ;-

  • Day and home care, Dementia support and advisers, Support groups, Befriending and Advocacy. An admirable range of service and support.
1133624 – Age Sentinel Trust
I was hooked in at the weekend by a face to face collector in our local garden center. The ‘shaken tin’ had a blue Alzheimers like logo but the collector showed me his Age Sentinel badge and said they collected face to face whilst the Alzheimer’s Society no longer did.  I moderated my contribution resolving to follow up.

I am not the first: Charitable Sentiments blog has interesting information on small charities and Age Sentinel who collect in retailers including Marks & Spencer and Tesco’s. It looks like I paid a Gumtree recruit rather than giving to anAlzheimer’s cause .

Age Sentinel annual income over the last 5 reports and accounts varies between £43k-£52k. Only 50% is spent on charitable work by making grants, providing information and logistical support,  special communication devices or home adaptations to individuals and number of voluntary organisations without any detail.

Concerns and Problems

Small ill disciplined charities damage donor goodwill:

  • Lack of clarity about the beneficiaries leaves donors cynical.
  • 33% costs apparently paid as commission.
  • Use of the illness brand  ‘Alzheimer’s’  in face to face unlicensed collection on private retail premises.
  • Age Sentinel shares a trustee and locations with 1141908 – Child Sentinel Trust. Their income and expenditure is also obscure and social media presence non-existent.


Unity Lotto is a bit of a Gamble

I recently referred to Unity Lottery when discussing Pets at Home’s pet charity ‘Support Adoption for Pets’. During research I was taken by the strong assertions by Unity Lottery that they had no connection to Unity Lotto. That set me wondering what was going on.

Unity Lotto

Unity Lotto operate a lottery syndicate, rather than a lottery so they maintain they are not required to be regulated or authorised by the Gambling Commission. If you are one of the many who have a complaint they suggest in the T’s&C’s ‘For more information, please visit the Gambling Commission Website. (Not much use if they are unregulated).  We are not required to be regulated by the Financial Services Authority, as the syndicate we operate is not an investment scheme.’

As far as we can ascertain Unity Lotto is not connected with Camelot Group PLC, any charitable good works or any other lottery providers nor is it in receipt of commissions.

UnityLotto EuroMillions syndicated service  enables members to play the lottery together by buying a number of tickets at a shared cost and splitting any prizes won.

This is a sample costing and reward calculation: assume ‘150 syndicate members pay £37 each for 4 weeks of 150 tickets a week. Total income £5,550 Money spent on tickets = £1,200.
Profits before costs for Unity Lotto £4350.
Not actually illegal and pretty much on a par with every scam online syndicate I have seen – most of them also offer existing members incentives to drag more victims in.
Good luck trying to get anything back and avoid online syndicates in the future.’ (Money Saving Expert forum).

Most of the complaints we have seen are based on recruitment of new members, taking money without clarity or due authority, misleading phone calls purporting to be from the National Pension Service and disappearing without responding to problems.

Unity Lottery

The Unity Lottery is a ‘common brand lottery jointly promoted with individual society lotteries. Each Lottery operated under Unity (part of Sterling Lotteries) is a separate licensed lottery, operated by and supporting that particular good cause.’ It is registered with the Gambling Commission.

Members sign-up to pay £1 per week for a unique six-digit lottery number. Numbers are entered into a weekly draw, with various prizes including a £25,000 jackpot. For every £1  received  50p will go directly to your chosen charity or cause. (50%) The rest covers prizes, profits and administration costs.

According to their parent organisation web site ‘in 2014, Sterling enabled over 250 organisations to raise a total of almost £45 million through fundraising lotteries. Their lottery members shared over £7.5 million in prizes.’ That looks like £45m less £7.5m prizes leaving about £27.5m for running costs and profits.


Neither of these organisations is a charity. Unity Lotto  needs to be supped with a very long spoon if at all.

Unity Lottery raises lots of money for lots of good causes from the supporters of those causes.

Lotteries offer significant potential for big business, fund raisers, managers and charities alike. They tend to rely on data bases of existing causes.

The National Lottery may have a lot to answer for in how it has changed our approach to charity.

The Winning Envelope Is?

Charity Envelope Review

From a sample of 50 ‘charity’ envelopes received in the last few months the following observations have been made. Christmas mailings and requests were excluded from the sample

  • Thirty envelopes were C4 that comply with the size and weight for the Post Office letter rate of 64p second class. (discounted rates may apply). Twenty other samples were DL sized that is the long, thinner envelope  about 30% smaller and also complies with the  letter postage rate.
  • 70% of the envelopes were personalised and delivered with the normal post. The remainder were via the post or casual drop shots.
  • Two were in see through plastic wrapping.
  • 5% were duplicates of the same envelope to the same address though not necessarily at the same time.
  • Only five envelopes were printed in a single colour of which two were the ‘cheaper’  manila envelopes.
  • Over half the envelopes were printed in 4 colour process printing and many had full coverage maximising the amount of ink consumed.
  • There were mixed messages about recycling and even the Woodland Trust failed to comment on the papers source or sustainability credentials.
  • Over 80% contained a reply envelope.

Winners in this Envelope Race

  • Envelope manufacturers are selling a top range product to charities and in many cases this will be at a top range price with a handsome margin! Special event envelopes bought near the posting date often attract a premium.
  • The Post Office and delivery services would not want to lose out on the volume of work offered by charities on these mailings.
  • The personalisation and fulfillment industry charge handsomely
  • Data management is not cheap even if handled internally within the charity. There is a cost at least for list maintenance, merging, purging and deduping and sanity checking against bereavement lists.

 Enhancement Future Performance

  • Reducing the unit cost of a mailing seems to be natural so why use predominantly large envelopes and thus contents.
  • With the majority of donations and responses now using the internet will there be any net loss by dropping the reply envelope.
  • Preplanning, test mailings, careful targeting and avoiding duplication are precursors to analysing the true achievement of the intended goals.
  • I have to admit that these envelopes are the ones I chose not to open at the time. Failing to get participation from the recipient  damages results and can tarnish the brand.

The Art of Auction Acquisition

A. Alfred Taubman 1924- 2015 His Legacy?

Is it a done deal? It sure looks that way and there seems to be plenty of funds available so why not. Still there is a slightly bad taste to a deal to the Save the King appeal at York Civic Trust. The object of York’s desire is a 17th century wooden carving celebrating psalm 150 with King David playing a harp and Saint Cecilia playing an organ. It is said to have been created by  Grinling Gibbons whilst he was working in York.

It sold recently by Sotheby’s New York,  for $ 162,500 including buyers premium after a pre-sale estimate of $250,000 — $350,000. A small part of a $500m auction of Al Taubmans’s art collection.

Lets have a Fund Raiser

York’s appeal is for £300,000 of which £242,500 is already assured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and Arts Council / V&A Purchase Grant. The public appeal launched in April 2017 is for a final £60,000 ‘to save this panel and secure the purchase….’

Strange then that it is likely to ‘become the focal point of the exhibition Made in York: Inventing and Enlightening the Georgian City’ from 5 May 2017 (almost before the money is donated.)

Strange also that the art work was part of the estate of the Sotheby’s former chairman Anthony A Taubman. As the former chairman of Sotheby’s, he served time in federal prison in 2003 over his role in a price-fixing scandal with Christie’s.

The third strange aspect is an assumption that the art work will be owned by the  York Civic Trust 229336. In January 2016 this charity had over £3.6m available stock market investments. The management fees paid by the Civic Trust are £20k per year! The York Conservation Trust 504302 act as heritage property asset owning landlords to various sites in York.


If the resources are already ‘in the bank’ why be disingenuous raising more money. If the intention is top up resources then why not say so. Poor behaviour risks damaging appeals for other charities and causes.

How open are the surrounding transactions and is money being wasted when it costs more than twice the hammer price compared to buying at auction.

It is not Charity Chit Chat’s role to question the who’s and whys of a deal that fits within the scope of the charitable purpose. However in the long term pushing the boundaries to the limit does no favours to the charity industry.


Is The Famine Crisis Appealing?

No humanitarian crisis is appealing and that is particularly true of the images on display in support of current crisis appeals for Yemen and East Africa.

Whilst it may be justifiable  and even essential to stimulate donors, the fund raising band wagon and the way it appears to be structured is not appealing to a large number of people.

Leaving aside current DEC appeals for a moment consider the Scottish registered Mercy Corp who took national newspaper advertising focused on ‘1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death – please give £45 for Life Saving Aid’.   Famine areas in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia were highlighted in the advert. In small print a footnote stated that ‘funds would be used where the need is greatest’. Given that Mercy Corp worked on projects in an admirable 40 counties last year, committing the majority of their £60m income, it doesn’t appear to be a focused appeal more riding the wave of emotion.

In the same paper (Daily Telegraph 17/3/17) there was a Unicef UK advert focused on the ‘East Africa Famine 5.5 million children in danger’ emphasising £35 could provide six weeks of emergency food.(Will it the cynic asks) Unicef receives no funding from DEC or the UN budget but regularly works in over 100 countries on humanitarian projects. As with Mercy Corp our in-house cynic could think some charities were using the current ‘focus on famine’ to top up there financial resources.

Returning to DEC, who took and I assume paid for a full page spread in the same paper, they are getting better at coordinating the disaster emergency efforts with at least 13 top line charities. DEC’s political contacts and clout may also have helped negotiate a pound for pound match funding from UK Aid up to £5million on top of gift aid. Action Aid is a DEC member who chose to send an appeal in a bespoke envelope. I can only assume all the Action Aid supporters donations will go straight into the DEC coordinated central financial reserve for rapid deployment and subsequent reporting back.


  • Primary concern is for those who are or may shortly be suffering life threatening famine, drought and consequent health problems.
  • How directly, immediately and focused will the aid be spent
  • Is the appeal blitz going to  inure donors to the victims plight and make non-contributing cynics of the the kind hearted.
  • Are the costs proportionate and related to the benefits.
  • Is the process fit for purpose and improving the outcomes where and when need.
  • The aid industry does not need any high profile probity or management problem with the consquent public relations.