Over the past 24 hours, charities that have received donations from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust have been hastily putting out statements saying how they will return the money. Quite understandably, they want to distance themselves from funds that have been raised from gala dinners at which young woman were required to wear revealing outfits and, according to numerous accounts, subjected to unwanted sexual advances.
Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Charity has pledged to return the £530,000 it has received from the Presidents Club and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital says that it will return the estimated £665,000 it has received or been promised by the club. Given the intense media attention and public outcry, they have had little choice.
But surely there is something morally wrong about the beneficiaries of respectable charities ultimately paying the price for the reprehensible behaviour of others.
As far as we can tell, the charities that received money had few dealings with the club and they would have had no reason to doubt that it was anything other than a respectable philanthropic trust. On paper, the Presidents Club probably had a better pedigree than most philanthropic organisations: it had been going for more than 30 years and its trustees were highly regarded wealthy individuals.
Now the charities face the prospect of raiding their reserves and scaling back their spending plans in order to return money to a trust whose reputation now lies in tatters and has already stated its intentions to close.
In most cases, the money donated to charities has already been put to good use. For example, Gosh has recently been investing in the latest ultra-sound scanners and rebuilding and refurbishing facilities for seriously ill children.
And what purpose does returning the money actually serve? In the first instance, the money will go back to the Presidents Club where it will undoubtedly sit unspent for months, if not years, as the Charity Commission picks its way through this sorry and rather unsavoury saga. The money will then be redistributed to children’s charities, the stated charitable objects of the club, as required under charity law.
Surely it would be best to find a way that would allow those charities that have had their names dragged through the mud over the past 24 hours to keep the money they have received. They and their beneficiaries are among the many victims of this scandal – and it’s simply wrong that victims should pay.