Editorial by Andrew Cates, CEO SOS Children UK
I think most people who support a charity are looking for a charity which will spend their money in a straightforward manner on what they would have wanted. We like this model, and we try to do what we think the donors would do if they were in our place. Indeed sponsors are part of the same movement for children as us, working towards a family childhood for all children.
Sometimes priorities contradict. If a badger starts digging up an Ancient Monument both are protected and it is unclear, even to English Heritage I discovered, what should happen. Political correctness can be contradictory and even entertaining too. Clearly most people agree that donors, if they are kind enough to give money to charities, should be pretty much in the driving seat about how it is spent. But there is a perception that a minority of charities feel they are better able to judge (rather than explain) how money is spent. Sometimes we come across rather politically left wing field workers for other charities who are somehow ashamed that "charity" should be what is going on at all. We are told it should all be about the child's "rights". This even makes a strange "politically correct" objection to child sponsorship, almost to the point of saying it would be better for a child to starve than for them to suffer the "indignity" of being helped by a sponsor. It is no bad thing at all consulting children about whatever you do for them (and children are always involved in our decision making) but in the end the sponsors and donors general wishes need to be taken into account too when we are spending their money. Not that individual sponsors should be able to suggest it is time for a haircut or anything like that, but more that a commonsense approach based around the idea that a sponsor is paying money towards actually helping a child should prevail. What is going on is people helping children and that is a positive and wonderful thing.
So why is this model so difficult for charities to understand? And why is "rights" somehow more politically acceptable than "love", "help" and "generosity" as concepts? If you doubt the issue exists, let me give you an example. If I give money to a charity for child rights advocacy, would I typically imagine that this should include paying for the charity to promote child rights back towards me? If I pay money in response to a TV advert calling for the end of child abuse would I expect the contribution I make to be only for more adverts, driven only by an aim of "awareness"? Let me stick my neck out and say very few donors would think "awareness" of child rights or child abuse could reasonably be an aim in itself unless there is actually a knock-on effect protecting children, and most people give in the hope that children will actually be protected as a result.
Anyway SOS Children is sticking to its straightforward approach of providing family based care for children alone and helping families on the edge stay together. Long may this commonsense prevail.