The amount some large charities spend on advertising is a cause of "very real concerns", Thomas Hughes-Hallett, chief executive of Marie Curie Cancer Care, told the Public Administration Select Committee of MPs yesterday.
He was responding to Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, who said he believed some charities, such as Shelter and the NSPCC, spent too much on advertising and campaigning compared with what they spent on service delivery.
Charles Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne, said he was tired of receiving campaigning emails from charities.
Hughes-Hallett agreed that this could be a problem. "I have very real concerns about the level of spending on advertising by some of the large charities," he said. "However, there has to be some advertising."
He warned that donors "are getting tired of seeing advertisements in papers every day. The public will catch you out eventually."
The session was convened to discuss the future of funding for voluntary sector organisations and the role of charities in the big society.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, told the committee that campaigning was sometimes an important part of charities' activities.
But he urged charities to be transparent with their spending. He said the best charities used the knowledge they gained from providing services to influence policy.
Etherington told MPs that developing an electronic rather than paper-based system for administering Gift Aid was a crucial way to encourage giving.
"The system is still very cumbersome," he said. "A more effective Gift Aid scheme would see more giving. If you recommend nothing else, it should be to improve Gift Aid."