|Charity bags: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."|
Concerts were held around the world following a BBC news report on the famine which had afflicted the people of Ethiopia. But potential contributors had a choice. Those who were not in the audience could make a payment or enjoy free entertainment while children starved. Persuasion and conscience were key ingredients.
Charity is big business. Arm twisting is a professional activity. Charities pay arm-twisters a percentage of the money they raise. But what of the target? Legendary poppy seller Olive Cook is presumed to have taken her own life after being sent 260 letters from charities every month asking for money and stress caused by cold callers.
Jenny Phelps, a former carer, 'slammed charities' saying they were 'preying on goodwill' after receiving 1,000 begging letters over five years.
Charities need to get their act together. Stewardship teams like to remind churchgoers that "God loves a cheerful giver", a message not lost on charities but cheerful giving often results in harassment. Once on their books charities will target donors regardless of whether they have already given to their latest appeal and their regular givers with pleas for more cash, often with harrowing pictures to drive their message home.
A practice I find particularly objectionable involves charity consultants ringing donors to encourage them to increase their giving, often from meagre resources, so that they can claim commission.
Another irritation is the intimidating supermarket collection where in-your-face charity collectors glare at customers with a 'don't you pass-by-on-the-other-side look'. Thankfully the pressure has eased since most supermarkets have banned the collection of direct debit details to avoid customers feeling pressurised.
The worst abusers are the scam bag collectors who trade on people's ignorance, sympathy and generosity. It's so easy. Pick a charity, print their details on a bag with the Charity number to make it look authentic then promise to pay the charity between £50, £85 or £100 while making a fortune for themselves - see the charity bag scam here.
According to the British Heart Foundation the trade had led to an estimated loss of donations direct to BHF shops worth £4.6million over two years. In some cases they said "charities are getting £50 to £100 per tonne of goods collected when, in fact, the goods can sell abroad for anything up to £1,800."
Charities need the money but if there is any doubt that a charity bag is genuine, far better to go direct to the charity shop, some will happily collect, or make a donation directly to such as the Alzheimer's Society displayed in the header.
And be aware of the FRSB ü logo. I have an animal welfare bag in front of me which prominently displays the tick of approval but reading the small print shows that they will donate a minimum of £50 per tonne of goods collected, presumably leaving the collector in excess of £1500 while claiming that every penny of every pound donated goes to directly to animal welfare. That's just £50 in pennies then!