As cold as charity

27 March 2017 | Lloyd Hughes

Last week’s terror attack was an horrific reminder that nowhere is truly safe from the threat of those intent on violence.

Even in Westminster, at the heart of democracy, where security is at its highest and the watchful eye of the security services most alert, maniacs can still wreak havoc.

The fact that Khalid Masood was forced to use implements as comparatively basic as a knife and a car, and seemingly unable to access more sophisticated (and devastating) weaponry, suggests that the UK security services are doing a good job of keeping us safe. 

Given the number of extremists likely to be hidden in a population of 60 million, it’s incredible that a more destructive terrorist atrocity hasn’t happened before now. That is testament to the tireless work of MI5, GCHQ and our police force.

The murder of PC Keith Palmer brought home the reality of what frontline police officers face. They’re the thin blue line that keeps the public safe from harm. Keith Palmer, in approaching the threat rather than running away, demonstrated the bravery that’s so widespread in those who serve in the various arms of the UK's law enforcement.

An online Just Giving page set up in PC Palmer’s name by the Metropolitan Police Federation to raise money for his family in the wake of his death, raised £736,000 before the organisation decided to close the page having hugely exceeded its target.

That’s a fantastic amount and evidence of the generosity of spirit and empathy of the British people.

But what’s not so fantastic is that Just Giving, the company behind the website, is skimming 5% off that total as an admin fee.

That’s a whopping £36,800.

Just Giving claims it donated £10,000 to the cause at its launch, which, whilst a nice gesture, still means it gets £26,800 back through fees. Now, with the website already set up and all of the necessary infrastructure in place for it to work (it claims to have facilitated $4.2billion in charitable donations since its launch) Just Giving is doing very, very nicely off the back of it.

Apparently, the admin fees it charges are far higher than similar sites, such as Virgin Money Giving. On the Just Giving website, it states that it operates ‘for profit, for good’ and that it invests its fees back into funding for innovation around giving.

Now, that all sounds fair enough, but it doesn’t mention the wages it pays to senior people within the organisation. It’s highest paid director got £152,000 in 2015, with pension contributions of £46,600.

This is always my issue with giving to large charitable organisations. The majority of senior staff get paid a fortune. The argument is often that they need to pay top wages to get top people. But it does annoy me that directors and the like are able to claim the moral benefits of doing ‘charitable work’, whilst being paid such vast sums. And sums that take money directly from worthwhile causes in order to pay them.

I don’t necessarily disagree with Just Giving’s stance that they won’t waive the fee as ‘all their causes are good causes’ but I do disagree with their staff patting themselves on the back for being good people and working for charity, while earning 6 times the average UK salary.

It’s bad PR for Just Giving, as the firm has been widely slated in the press, serving to cast a spotlight on the fact it's not necessarily practising what it preaches - that of giving, not taking.