I was privy to an online forum topic recently regarding charities. A person had posted saying that they were not going to buy Christmas cards, but were going to give £30 to a charity instead and wanted to know which ones people would recommend supporting. It was lovely to see that our name got a mention on the list, but also fascinating how many people replied saying that they didn’t trust charities and that they would go and give the money to a homeless person.

In reply to the comment about TBF, where the postee said that we ran with no overheads, there were quite a few replies pertaining to CEO salaries, and that if you believe they’re not making money themselves then you’ll believe anything. What a shame to see such mistrust in charities, and why is that?

I’m not sure where the line is or should be drawn with big charities and their fundraising/salaries. Of course, if you don’t spend money on fundraising you’re very unlikely to raise much; if you spend money then naturally people will be more aware of your cause, but I’d have to admit that even I am dubious of the door-to-door Direct Debit canvassers, and more often than not turn them away because I know that my first donations will pay the canvasser for their evening’s work. (And I’d have to admit that I do find door-to-door very intrusive when I’m trying to cook dinner!)

There’s an argument that people who work for charities should naturally expect a lower salary, but seeing CEOs on six figure salaries is enough to make anyone’s eyes water. But then should people who work for charities be expected to work for less, or should charities do all that they can to keep their staff well-paid and thereby retaining as many high quality professionals as they possibly can? Does salary have anything to do with it? It is my belief that often charities do pay less of a salary than the corporate world, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that people who want to work for charities are often less financially motivated than their corporate counterparts and more interested in ‘doing good’ than having an extra holiday.

As it happens, we really are a zero overheads charity. We once paid ‘expenses’ to one of our Agents, who paid for a cab to take one of our clients home with a heavy food shop. We reimbursed her £7 for that cab, as our client would have had no way of getting their food home without one. We have no premises, no company phones, no biscuit budget, no work laptops. I guess as founder and one of three with access to the charity bank account you could call me a CEO. I have absolutely no salary from TBF. I don’t even claim for the cost of stamps if I need to send a letter. I do my work with TBF from a three-year-old HP Pavilion G6 which is very, very slow, and when it dies I will have to replace it myself.

Would I like to pay people a salary though? In theory, yes. I’d love to be able to create jobs and have outreach workers and a marketing department and someone to look after social media for us. I’d love us to be more well-known and have more supporters and not ever need to worry about whether we will be able to afford to help the next family in dire need. In lieu of a £10m grant and a complete rewrite of our constitution, however, we are and shall remain the zero overheads charity.

The only money we receive which doesn’t go to those in need are nominal PayPal fees (usually pennies as we get a special charity rate), nothing more.  Really and truly.  Really.


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