Friday, March 27, 2009

And here's a question: 'If you knew...'

I've discovered that when I tell people about ambient hot dogs and other horrors from minimum wage hell they always - without exception - vow never to eat a cinema hot dog again.

That phrase: "If you knew..." is very powerful. If you knew what a cinema hot dog really was... If you knew that in a certain restaurant in Cardiff the prepped vegetarian meals are stored below the pork faggots... If you knew what a 'Coke Snake' was... and so on.

I have several friends who work for charitable organisations. Recently one of them told me that 'if he knew' what the organisation spent money on before he started working for them, he wouldn't have supported it. He still gives regularly, but he has told me that he won't increase his giving.

I know people who work handling sensitive information like credit card bills for the top people in charities who have told me they feel unable to question certain expenses even though they themselves would never claim for such things. And they seriously doubt the people who support the charities would be impressed, either 'if they knew'.

Two friends, who work as fundraisers for different charities, have told me that they would give 'allocated income' to achieve specific goals, but wouldn't raise general funds.

I think my big question is - is this unique? If you knew how any charity, or your church, spent money, would you still give to it?

Maybe that's something that should apply to all of us. I think a good general rule of thumb in life is 'If people knew what I spent on x, would I spend it?' I know before now I've decided not to buy some things because I would have to tell my lovely wife about it. How different would my personal finances be if I knew they were going to be scrutinised by other people too?

Could you open up organisations to make them more accountable too? A simple solution would be to set up a volunteer stakeholder panel and every six months give them copies of all invoices, expense claims, and bank statements and see what they say. I don't think this would be too hard to do - make it voluntary for charities and then award standards according to how 'well' money was spent. Getting the highest standards would encourage people to give knowing their money wouldn't be wasted. It could be helpful both ways, then.


  1. i think that's a great idea.

  2. Hmm, interesting thinking, but I see the possibility that you'd then have a kind of 'naming and shaming' situation.

    For instance a charity that is doing some great work with half its money and then wasting the other half could then see a massive drop in giving due to the 'shame' and subsequently not be given the chance to turn around its practises, which presumably it would have wished to achieve by participating in the voluntary scheme?

    Just a possibility... I'm all for some kind of transparency though, and am sure some of the stuff that goes on is really not that appropriate. Something should be done.

  3. Thinking about it, I'm happier giving in good faith and then not knowing.

    Having a wife who used to be a church treasurer opened my eyes to a few things. I'd rather not know and just give.

    I do belive we're all called to account. And those who have been entrusted with much will have to account for every penny.

  4. Rather appropriate topic considering the current headlines Jon.