Barnardo’s has defended its decision to pay the Made in Chelsea celebrity Binky Felstead up to £3,000 for fronting a campaign to promote the children’s charity’s shops.
The Sun newspaper reported that the reality TV star was paid £20,000 for her work with the charity, but Barnardo’s denied this on Twitter, saying the campaign cost £3,000.
Critics of the money involved voiced their disapproval on Facebook and Twitter.
"If Barnardo's are going to pay nonentities for an advert, I won't be donating to them; they are obviously wasting donators' money," said Sherrilyn Barnes-Hannah on Facebook.
Lorraine Rice said: "All charities pay and often hire companies to help them raise awareness. It makes me sick – I understand companies need payment for efforts, but surely they can use the issues of charity to get celebs on board?"
Felstead – whose real name is Alexandra – responded to The Sun report on Twitter: "Horrified at the total lies in the Sun both for me and Barnardo’s, sick!"
A spokesman for Felstead said she had given her fee to another charity, which he did not name.
"It was always Binky's intention to donate her fee to charity and this is the main reason she took on the job," he said. "She felt there would be a double bonus – helping Barnardo's and helping one of the charities she already supports."
A spokeswoman for Barnardo’s said in a statement: "This is the first time we had agreed to pay a celebrity for a retail campaign. We have had to postpone some previous retail campaigns because we have been unable to secure the right celebrity backing. This was a way of testing the impact of a popular celebrity in order to appeal to a new, wider audience. This was not a decision we took lightly.
"We took a business decision to acquire the support of Alexandra (Binky) Felstead, using retail profits to bring the appeal to a new and wider audience. We expected the campaign to increase our retail stock significantly and will be monitoring its impact on our sales."
The charity did not respond to questions from Third Sector before publication of this story about the nature of the work or the number of hours Felstead spent on the campaign.
But Jenny Dunster, president of the Agents' Association (GB) and managing director of Whatever Artists Management, said it was common for celebrities to be paid by charities. "Time is money, and a celebrity’s presence benefits the charity a great deal," she said. "There will be lots more people who are aware of Barnardo’s because of Binky’s face."
Dunster said that many celebrities would earn very little if charities did not pay them, because charity events can make up 50 to 60 per cent of some celebrities’ income.
She also pointed out that the advertising agency that produced the Barnardo’s campaign would not have been expected to work for nothing.
Joe Saxton, founder of the research consultancy nfpSynergy, who is leading an initiative aimed at developing a "media rebuttal protocol" for charities on behalf of the Understanding Charities Group, said that Barnardo’s could respond to its critics by highlighting its estimated income from a successful campaign. "It could make people realise that it could make an extra £500,000 from paying £3,000," he said.
"Charities are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They’re damned if they don’t because if they don’t engage people and try to reach new audiences, they don’t get their message across; they’re damned if they do because everyone says ‘isn’t this appalling?’"
Saxton said that Barnardo’s might have been unwise to refer to its decision to pay Felstead as a "business decision", because people did not like to think that charities were running themselves like businesses. He said it would have been better to refer to it as a decision that would help more children.