Charities prioritise themselves above their beneficiaries, says Camila Batmanghelidjh

The founder of Kids Company says too many in the sector care more about the wellbeing of the organisation than the cause

Camila Batmanghelidjh
Camila Batmanghelidjh

Charities are prioritising their own wellbeing over that of their beneficiaries and "morphing into money-making organisations", according to Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of the charity Kids Company.

Batmanghelidjh was addressing an audience of public sector leaders at a reception hosted by the interim management provider Odgers Interim in London last night.

She spoke about the failings of children’s services in the UK, the state’s focus on targets, key performance indicators and what she called "pseudo-outcomes", and the reform Kids Company was arguing for through its See the Child. Change the System campaign. She was also critical of the use of social impact bonds to fund children’s care.

Batmanghelidjh received national media attention earlier this week when she said her charity’s finances were in dire straits. "I can only sustain it until the end of the year," she told the London Evening Standard. "There’s no way I’m going to continue without proper government funding."

But she told the Odgers event that her priority was not the survival of the charity. "A lot of organisations fight primarily for their own survival," she said. "If Kids Company went down tomorrow, I wouldn’t see it as our failing; I would see it as spending every last penny on the children that need it.

"I don’t want to run a charity. I never wanted to run an organisation. I just wanted to do the right thing. It doesn’t matter whether the organisation exists or doesn’t exist; it matters that children are pouring through our doors."

Kids Company’s most recent accounts filed with the Charity Commission show income of £20.3m for the year 2012, which has risen steadily from £11.1m in 2008. Just short of a quarter of 2012’s income came from central and local government.

Batmanghelidjh told the event that many third sector organisations were "morphing into-money making organisations, moving into the areas where they can earn the money they need to survive".

Many third sector organisations were scared of speaking up because of the fear of losing funding, she later told Third Sector. "The sector has got to stop worrying about what it looks like and start genuinely advocating on behalf of the client," she said.

Batmanghelidjh said that although she was aware of some young leaders who could passionately and candidly advocate for their beneficiaries, many people in the sector were more interested in their organisations' internal mechanisms.

"Admin has become a substitute for leadership; it has become an end in itself," she said, and this meant the people who got promoted through charities tended to be safe rather than provocative.

"We’ve become so homogenised, you can’t tell the difference between a charity and a corporate – and we think that’s impressive, but it’s not," she said.

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