Where have all the donations gone?

Stephen Cook reviews the new book by David Craig, which outlines some familiar gripes about charities

This is the kind of book you might read to find out what the opposition is thinking. It pulls together and amplifies all the gripes about charities we've heard in the past few years, mainly from right-leaning politicians, think tanks and the media.

And so we hear that there are too many charities and too much duplication; not enough charitable income is spent on real charitable services; charity executives are paid too much; many people dislike street and doorstep fundraising; campaigning by charities is too political; the government funds some charities that lobby it on policy; and development aid is a bottomless pit.

Craig rummages through these familiar themes, always offering the most cynical and jaundiced reading of the facts, then comes up with a chapter of proposed controls and prohibitions that remind you how similar the political right and left can be when it comes to intervention. He proposes that the Charity Commission should create five kinds of charity with strict conditions on how they spend their money; for every charity registered, 10 would have to leave to bring the numbers down; a slice of Gift Aid should be taken to hire 100 commission auditors that would colour-code whether charities were spending correctly; and UN protectorates should be established to break the poverty cycle in some African countries.

Easy, eh? Why didn't someone think of these before? Perhaps because they are too busy trying to find answers that are actually workable for the problems and pressures that charities do admittedly face.

Craig's criticisms need to be taken into account, but most of his solutions are a bit wild.

The Great Charity Scandal: What Really Happens to the Billions We Give to Good Causes? By David Craig, Thistle Publishing, Kindle price £3.99

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