Macmillan is 'school bully' over ice bucket challenge; Camila Batmanghelidjh's criticism of charities that 'chase the money' is justified

Plus: How to avoid negative founder-member syndrome and Charity Commission whistleblower is 'vindicated'

Camila Batmanghelidjh
Camila Batmanghelidjh

Macmillan is 'school bully' over the ice bucket challenge

I read with interest your article about charities trying to protect their fundraising ideas. The reputation of the ALS Association in the US might have suffered because it tried to trademark the ice bucket challenge, but Macmillan Cancer Support also suffered damage to its reputation because it hijacked a campaign that was originally about motor neurone disease. Judging by some of the comments posted on Macmillan's Facebook page, it is widely regarded as the charity equivalent of the school bully, using its vast reserves to undermine a campaign that was as much about raising awareness of MND as raising money. It is a sad reflection of our times that, as funds get tighter and charities are encouraged to behave like businesses, the worst competitive practices come to the fore.

Tim Watkins Trainer, Life Surfing CIC, Heath, Cardiff

Disaster awaits charities that compromise the cause for cash

I couldn't agree more with the view of Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, that many voluntary sector organisations have increasingly chased the funding – often into areas in which they were not previously proficient – simply in order to survive.

Many of these organisations have formed cobbled-together, often doomed, alliances and consortia with large private sector providers, only to find themselves receiving the most challenging service users in the contract, while their larger partners cream off the easier-to-place clients, thus ensuring that they got paid even if their smaller partners didn't.

The internet is littered with such cases and the subsequent demise of many formerly well-respected charities that got caught up in failed joint enterprises.

Chasing the money and compromising your constitution or governing document simply to fit funding streams does nothing to enhance a charity's reputation or standing in the sector. Kids Company may enjoy levels of government funding of which some small charities can only dream, but Batmanghelidjh's point is no less well made for that. The principle that she proffers applies, regardless of size.

Ian Ross, Chief executive, Outside Chance, Feltham, Middlesex

How to steer clear of negative founder-member syndrome

I read with interest Peter Stanford's "bitter experiences" of founder-member syndrome. Fourteen years ago I founded a learning disability charity, Solihull Life Opportunities (SoLO); I later became its general manager and then chief executive.

So how do I prevent founder-member syndrome having a negative impact? First, a charity must be driven from the ground up – our members with learning disabilities are the voices of the work and I listen to what they say. Second, I acknowledge that staff know the work better than I do: when they tell me something needs sorting out, it usually does. Third, I recognise the value of the volunteers. And finally, I never underestimate the importance of the carers – our beneficiaries' parents and carers are the experts I look to for guidance and wisdom.

I have been on a journey with this charity, which started with £500 in the bank and last year had an income of just under £1m. I'd like to think that this means I have brought something special to the table. I am 100 per cent committed to providing our members with the best possible experience. But I know that if I left, the charity would still flourish – a legacy of which I am proud.

Janet Down, Chief executive, SoLO, Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham

Fraud conviction vindicates the commission whistleblower

I believe the decision by a jury at the Old Bailey to find Eyob Sellassie, the founder of African Aids Action, guilty of two counts of fraud vindicates David Orbison, the former Charity Commission case worker who blew the whistle on the regulator's handling of an earlier investigation of the charity.

I have known Orbison since November 2012, when we both made submissions to the Public Administration Select Committee. I have acquainted myself with his story and read all the correspondence on his struggle for justice. He has suffered mental, emotional and financial cost, which is the fate of many whistleblowers.

Surely it is time to act on the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee and change the culture of the commission root and branch. I cannot see how the commission can ever learn from its mistakes until there is a thorough independent investigation into what has gone on.

I would like to know what steps the commission will be taking to ensure that charities such as African Aids Action are not allowed to continue to function fraudulently despite the advice of its own officers. I would also like to know how the commission will make amends to Orbison.

Louisa Hutchinson, London W14

Please send letters to or Third Sector, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington TW11 9BE.

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