Help for not for profit and charity trustees

Giving and the Ukraine crisis

Many people want to get directly involved in giving and going to the country to do so

Many people have been rightly horrified at the carnage in Ukraine. Although it is beginning to diminish in news items, it is still very present with film of the destruction and distressing interviews and reportage. The natural response is to want to do something. A common response is to want to give something tangible. This results in toys, blankets and even food items being collected to be sent somehow to the … well quite where is not always clear.

To transport these materials is a major logistical exercise and certainly getting them into the war zone next to impossible. The Charity Commission and others suggest the best way to help is money to existing organisations who have the people and facilities on the ground already. These are often established organisations with controls set up and whose accounts and activities are monitored.

People are often reluctant to do this however for a variety of reasons. Some of them are emotional and the very act of giving ‘something’ fulfils a need. But another factor I suspect is the belief that if they give money to an organisation, not all of it goes to the front line. Some will go in salaries, overheads and will be ‘wasted’ in administration or red tape. It is also commonly believed that the salaries paid to chief executives of the larger charities are excessive. Much better to give directly to a group of volunteers who go directly not give money to some charity of which only a fraction will do any good.

The controls on charities have increased a lot in recent years partly as a result of the Oxfam scandal in Haiti and partly as a result of other legislation impacting on their work such as safeguarding. These controls are very necessary because, although the vast majority of people are honest and well-meaning, there are those who not so inclined and the vulnerable people who need the help of charities need protecting. It is a worry in connection with housing Ukrainian refugees in the UK. There are those who will exploit a minority of them. There is a need for control and oversight therefore to ensure abuse and exploitation do not happen. This involves money, organisation and administration – tedious matters that those with undoubtedly noble desires to help do not always see as necessary.

Trustees and charities should stick to their guns I suggest. Ukraine will slowly sink from the news as the war grinds on and the mood could change as I have argued before. If abuses appear in the months to come, the excuse that we were wanting to help directly will cut little ice. The controls are their for a purpose.

Peter Curbishley

Author of How to be a Successful Trustee

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