Fakecharities.org: What is it and who is behind it?

Woodland Trust and the RSPB are among those criticised by the site for receiving Government money

Devil's Kitchen blog
Devil's Kitchen blog

Who could object to the Woodland Trust, ActionAid and the RSPB? Unfortunately for them - and 58 other charities - the blogosphere takes no prisoners. They have all been named and shamed by the mysterious website Fakecharities.org.

The site sprang up about a year ago with the aim of listing organisations that "receive funding from the Government, do not pay tax to the Government and seek to change Government policy".

If a charity receives 10 per cent or more of its income, or more than £1m a year, from the Government, and engages in lobbying or influencing policy, then it goes on the list.

The site - functional, not decorative - is the brainchild of a popular right-wing blogger known as Devil's Kitchen. He is Chris Mounsey, founder of and head of communications at the UK Libertarian Party. Mounsey runs Fakecharities.org with the help of anonymous volunteers, one of whom blogs as Filthy Smoker and who spoke to Third Sector on condition of anonymity.

"The original idea came from a post I made last year on the Devil's Kitchen blog about Action on Smoking and Health," he says.

"The Department of Health had opened a consultation on banning tobacco displays that invited responses only from organisations it had contracts with. We quickly realised that, wherever we looked when legislation was being proposed, the same thing was happening. So we decided to do something about it."

Filthy Smoker concedes that the 10 per cent figure is arbitrary, but says relying so heavily on Government money "must influence what you say".

He insists the site lists only charities that receive unrestricted grant income and lobby for legislative change at the same time - not those that are contracted to provide public services. He cites Sustrans and Common Purpose among charities that have been suggested by the blog's readers, but turned down. He adds that the website gives charities the opportunity to contest what is said about them on the site.

The Woodland Trust has already done so - a rebuttal has been uploaded next to its entry.

"Fakecharities.org was happy to put up the rebuttal, so in that respect it's well edited," says Paul Hetherington, the charity's head of PR. "It's important that charities are monitored, and anything that informs people about how charities work is a good idea.

"But their 10 per cent criterion is dubious. I can't think of a single international development NGO that gets less than half of its income from government - should they really be labelled 'fake' charities?"

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