Posts Tagged ‘performance’

Eye Don’t Believe It

1079949 – AGE CONCERN SLOUGH AND BERKSHIRE EAST

Who Would Be A Charity Auditor

When things are bad they are often worse. Having survived a whistle blowing episode in 2014 and remaining independent of the Age UK consolidation you would expect this charity to take extra care. With new enthusiasm let us hope this is what happens. Extracts from the latest published report and accounts continue the story.

‘Due to the fields of activity in which the charity operates and its trading enterprises, there is a risk that the charity could suffer serious reputational damage as a consequence of the actions of its staff (e.g. in
advocating for clients), volunteers, trustees or its wider interests such as campaigning. This risk is managed by ensuring …. that good governance arrangements are in place (e.g. declarations of interest and governance polices) to ensure all relevant legal, statutory
and regulatory compliance is adhered to.

The Trustees who served during the year to 31″March but have recently resigned were:
A Cannings
B Mittal
R Whitehouse
R Dhokia

R Akwa was appointed to the Board on 26 September 2018.

Post Balance Sheet event
Since the year end, the group concluded negotiations with a major supplier which resulted in the cancellation of certain amounts owed by the charity at the year end. The benefit of this transaction which relates to this financial year end is £105,975 and has been recognised in these financial reports

The amount due from the subsidiary … was unsecured, interest free and there were no fixed terms for repayment. The Trustees have considered the recoverability of this amount which was £321,484 (2017: f325,968) and in the opinion of the Trustees, the full amount should be recoverable and no provision against that amount needs to be made.’

Oddities from a cursory review of the report and accounts lodged with the charities commission include  the worries of a third year of excess costs over income: debtors of quarter of a million pounds when most shop income is taken as and when a sale arises:  Lease commitments lasting beyond 5 years that over time approach one million pounds:  Profit related pay introduced at loss making charity shops Handy Help Ltd

Concerns

  • Overtrading is a business risk and having opted for a business-charity model this outfit seems to have fallen foul in many ways. Such a badly broken business would be closed, as arguably this charity should be but how do they extract themselves and who will fill the social needs.
  • The charity has a 33% interest in Interhelp Limited the Age Concern company selling insurance and financial products. There is a negative balance sheet and adverse publicity has dogged the project.

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.

 Concerns

  • 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.

RSPCA Still Getting It Wrong

The charity commission has received more complaints about the RSPCA than any other charity for each of the last two years. (Freedom of Information Act Third Sector) The RSPCA recently received the largest fine amongst charities for breaches of data protection laws.

Former chief executive, Gavin Grant, left after  two years in charge  followed  by his deputy. After a hiatus Jeremy Cooper became chief executive but resigned after a year at odds with some trustees political agenda with an adversarial stance on many issues and his desire to see rectification of mistakes.

What the Charity Commission Has to Say on the RSPCA

  • The governance of the RSPCA remains below that which we expect in a modern charity and we are concerned about the impact on public confidence.
  • RSPCA governance must be ‘brought up to standard’.
  • This has been brought into focus by the departure of the CEO and the clear recommendations of the charity’s independent governance review that the Commission requested the charity carry out.
  • We will consider what further regulatory action may be required should improvements not be made with the necessary urgency.

RSPCA and Police Powers

  • One objective of the charity appears to be obtaining police powers for  RSPCA inspectors. This could allow RSPCA  access to private property without the presence of a police officer as is currently required.
  • A cross party group of MP’s have already expressed doubts about this mooted change. Last month at the AGM the intention to get increase powers was reiterated.
  • If Defra and national police chiefs do not block this change to increase inspectors powers local authorities may be asked to act locally.

Concerns

  • Is the RSPCA a welfare charity for animals, a trustee’s political platform or will it become a private police force? Following their recent track record who would trust them as a police force?
  • When a situation is known to be bad, as is in this case of the RSPCA, it is often worse. What else may crawl out of the woodwork before better governance is in place.
  • RSPCA is a national institution, custodians of over £200,000,000 of reserves, beneficiaries of large regular income flows. However getting so many issue ‘wrong’ the public’s goodwill and thus future income and animal care will suffer.
  • As result of it’s privileged position in our society the RSPCA lives in a media spotlight. Ignore this at their peril.

BBC Panorama Programme 3rd August 2017

Further controversy has been raised by Panorama’s investigation into the RSPCA since we commented 4 weeks ago. I was taken by the comments by 2 defence barristers who both felt they had been unacceptably targeted by the RSPCA.

Preemptive comments were issued prior to the programme by the RSPCA

  1. We’re disappointed to learn that BBC Panorama will broadcast a programme about the RSPCA on Thursday 3 August 2017.  We understand that the programme will seek to portray an RSPCA that would not be recognised by its staff, volunteers, supporters or the many thousands of animals and people helped each year. ………….. ……… It will not recognise these things because it has chosen not to.’
  2. The Mirror reported that Brian May the Queen guitarist and animal rights activist feared a ‘hatchet job’ was to be orchestrated as part of  a campaign by the pro fox hunting lobby against the RSPCA.

‘Me thinks they doth protest too much’ – better to’ man up’ and resolve the serious issues of inappropriate governance.

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.