Hot Seat: Anne-Marie Huby

The founder of JustGiving is widely praised for her vision and values, but the company's decision not to waive its fees after the death of Stephen Sutton attracted criticism

Anne-Marie Huby, founder and managing director of JustGiving
Anne-Marie Huby, founder and managing director of JustGiving

Those who know Anne-Marie Huby are united in praise of her vision and values. But JustGiving, the business she co-founded 14 years ago, has irritated some with its profit-making model, which charges charities fees of 5 per cent on donations.

It attracted criticism in June for its decision not to waive its fees to the Teenage Cancer Trust after the death of Stephen Sutton, who raised millions for the charity partly through the site. Many had expected it to follow the precedent it set in the cases of Claire Squires and Robert Berry, fundraisers who died while running the London Marathon.

Joe Saxton, founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, believes Huby's decision illustrates a conflict. "Anne-Marie Huby the person is absolutely committed to the sector," he says. "The paradox is that the service she runs is a money-making outfit."

So was the decision not to waive its fees in the Stephen Sutton case a bad PR move? Peter Gilheany, director of the social change PR agency Forster, says no. "But a better move would be for it to be consistent and say that, rather than sometimes waiving fees and sometimes not, it will have a clear policy on the issue," he says.

Huby began her career as a journalist in her native Belgium, presenting a daily current affairs programme on national radio. In 1991, she joined Médecins Sans Frontières to run its press and communications office in Brussels, before moving to London to become the charity's UK head.

She's ethical and passionate, and wants to change the world

Mark Astarita, director of fundraising, British Red Cross

James Kliffen, head of fundraising at MSF, knew Huby then. "She was very young," he says. "I think she might have been 27 when she became director. But I never had any sense that her relative youth was an issue – far from it. She was incredibly energetic and enthusiastic."

In 2000, after seven years at the helm of MSF UK, Huby co-founded JustGiving with its chief executive, Zarine Kharas. A JustGiving spokeswoman declined to reveal Huby's salary, but the highest-paid director was listed in its accounts as earning almost £108,000 in 2012.

Mark Astarita, director of fundraising at the British Red Cross, is a strong supporter of Huby. "She understands the sector and is a delight whenever she's around," he says. "She's ethical and passionate, and wants to change the world – and she's done it, this way."

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