The British affiliate of SOS Children’s Villages has pledged not to spend any of the money it raises for Haiti on administration–and it is encouraging other British relief groups to do the same.
The group asks organizations to sign an online petition saying they will not put any Haiti gifts toward advertising, administration, fund raising, advocacy, or any other work in the United Kingdom, except for the purchase of goods delivered to the Caribbean nation.
Andrew Cates, chief executive of SOS Children’s Villages, says in an e-mail message that while his group has long encouraged other groups to spend less on fund raising, Haiti is a “bit of a special case” because charities have already set their fund-raising goals and budgets for the year.
“It just doesn’t seem right for the charitable sector to ‘gain’ from something like this and use it to pay for our own targets,” he says.
Mr. Cates adds that while U.S. charities can make a case that their country is “a plausible base for project-related Haiti activity,” British groups cannot make a similar argument.
The petition will play well with donors, says Robert Carter, vice chairman of Changing Our World, a group that consults with charities.
“That 100 percent will actually go to the disaster and no costs will be taken out for other parts of the administration — that’s a powerful comment,” he says.
Feedback from individuals has so far been “very positive,” says Mr. Cates, of SOS Children’s Villages. But no other charities have signed on, and some groups say the petition isn’t realistic.
Ian Bray, senior press officer with Oxfam’s British affiliate, says “there are essential costs outside of Haiti that ensures the operation makes a difference to people’s lives.”
It would be impossible to report back to donors about their gifts to Haiti, recruit staff members to work in Haiti, and provide the sorts of technical support that people on the ground need without spending any money in the United Kingdom, he says.
Mr. Carter, of Changing Our World, agrees that there will be practical concerns for many groups. “It’s a noble effort,” he says of SOS Children’s Villages pledge. “But the reality is there are usually some bona fide administrative costs attached to a charity doing its work.”
While Haiti may be a special case now, Mr. Carter says, there will be other disasters and “who’s to say the next cause isn’t an exception.”