Charitable gifts for the Royal Wedding: analysis of the plan

Prince William &Kate Middleton are asking for donations to a set of charities, rather than wedding gifts. Here’s my analysis of their plan.

Good idea

For sure the couple don’t need any towels from John Lewis. And since charities’ income falls during recessions just as the need for their work rises, some extra cash will certainly help. Hopefully there’ll be a secondary effect too of getting more people (back) into giving to charity.

The charities

Look to have been thoughtfully chosen.

Some reflect the couple’s own backgrounds – the community foundation near Kate’s family home, conservation activity near where they got engaged, and support for service personnel and people who’ve suffered bereavement.

Most striking is that most of them are little-known: in charities, being well-known is almost totally independent* of being any good, so small fantastic charities often struggle to attract the support which their work and professionalism deserves.

Recognise any?

Beat Bullying (does what it says on the tin), Oily Cart (accessible theatre for vulnerable children) and the Association for Children’s Palliative Care are all recommended by independent analysts New Philanthropy Capital. That’s a good sign.

Including the Association for Children’s Palliative Care is particularly interesting. It works across a whole industry, ie, quite a long way from ‘the front line’, and those organisations -whose work has significant reach – often struggle for funds because they’re less visible and emotive.

Any omissions?

“Environment – particularly to build on the growing awareness of the need to find better, more sustainable, models to balance development and the conservation of resources” is one of three areas of focus of the  Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry (known as “the Princes’ Foundation”), but isn’t represented on the wedding list. That’s odd since its inclusion in the Princes’ Foundation implies that Prince William (rightly) thinks that sustainable development is important.

And none of them are the ones of which Prince William is patron. Very surprising: presumably they’re ‘spreading the love around’ a bit.

 Under the bonnet

The selection of charities. No rationale is given publicly for the choice of those charities. This is a shame because (a)then we don’t know, and (b)they probably have done some due diligence on the charities and there’s an opportunity to show other people how that’s done. There is for example no discussion of the charities’ results – which is a shame. Maybe they’ll report after a year or so on the impact that the wedding gifts make – hope so.

The list has two “community foundations“: what are they? Community foundations support charities within a geographical patch. They typically do a good job of understanding need in their local area, and are effectively a clearing house through which local people can serve that need.

The money will be handled the Princes’ Foundation. Though you can designate charities to receive your gift, in fact it’s all decided by the Foundation’s trustees. This is very normal and good-practice: if we collectively donated a zillion pounds to (say) Oily Cart, that would be enough to blow it up, so the trustees need the right to do a bit of air-traffic control. (This is the same when you send a goat via Oxfam, by the way: you just give money to Oxfam and they do useful things with it. They don’t need the possibility of receiving 60million goats one month.)

So who are the trustees? The Chairman is Lord Janvrin, former Private Secretary to HM Queen and active in charitable activity; Trustees are Sir David Manning (former ambassador), Edward Harley, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton (the Princes’ Private Secretary), Guy Monson, Baroness (Fiona) Shackleton (the family lawyer).

Charges They’ve persuaded BT and “all UK mobile operators” to drop their fees on SMS donations.

Follow up They’ve committed to thanking everybody who gives, which is great and important. Like I say, I’ll be interested in the impact report in a year or two.

*It’s independent. That doesn’t mean that big ones are universally bad, nor that small ones are good: rather, literally, that there’s a spread of quality amongst both the big and the small – in a way that you don’t get in companies.

Detail on the fund is at http://www.royalweddingcharityfund.org

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One Response to Charitable gifts for the Royal Wedding: analysis of the plan

  1. Pingback: Fundraising around the Royal Wedding - UK Fundraising

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