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PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre for vulnerable children in Ghana, West Africa
PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre for vulnerable children in Ghana, West Africa
PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre for vulnerable children in Ghana, West Africa
PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre for vulnerable children in Ghana, West Africa
How Partner West Africa's donations are ethically spent

So Here's The Thing

Date Posted: 15/02/2016

One of Partner West Africa's Trustees ponders the ethics of how money donated to charities gets spent.

Yesterday I was listening to a commentary on the radio about charities in the UK. The commentary was basically stressing the vast amount of money donated to charities in the UK (billions each year) and whether there should be more constraints on how these funds should be spent.  There have been several reports in the last year of charities spending funds inappropriately or of public concern that the money that has been donated has been spent on advertising, offices and excessive staff salaries or expenses etc.

The radio programme also made the point that the charity sector is “big business”.  It is a very competitive “big business” as charities vie with each other for donations.  A friend of mine recently said that he is sick of being bombarded with adverts on the TV and of having letters drop through his door asking for support.

Now here’s the thing.  Not every charity can or does do that.  There are so many small charities in the UK which can’t afford to advertise on the TV or run campaigns through the post.  Their income doesn’t run in to hundreds of thousands and most employ few if any staff.  Many will have no offices except the front room of one of the trustees and I would guess that those trustees don’t expect to receive expenses most of the time.  Yet, when the chill wind of criticism blows over the charity sector, these small charities suffer as much as the big ones.  In fact, they may suffer more as they do not have the resources to deal with the drop in public engagement with the sector.  Even a small drop in donations made nationally, is, percentage wise, a huge drop for a small charity.

Some of you might ask whether small charities can run in the “business like” way that the big charities can.  Are they just too amateur?  Good question.  I would say that this is a good instance of when size really doesn’t matter. All charities registered with the Charity Commission in England and Wales (and its equivalent in Scotland) are subject to the same regulations and potential scrutiny.  As a small charity we still have to present accounts and an annual report which are published on the Charity Commission website.  Our trustees have to sign up to the same declaration of responsibility and if we failed to discharge those responsibilities properly, we could be removed from office and the charity closed down.  The same regulatory safeguards apply, irrespective of size.  So “amateur” or not, it’s the same rules.

I’m not sure actually what the term “business-like” really refers to.  My dictionary (Chambers) says “methodical, systematic, practical”.  You can and should be that, no matter how big you are.

Is it about efficiency?  To me, for a charity, that means achieving what you have set out to achieve at the lowest cost-in other words, making the most of the donations you have received so they can be spent on the beneficiaries of your charity.  Again size should be no object here.

Apparently, “on average a UK charity spends between 15p and 25p up front to raise £1 of funding, with no guarantee of success” (source is the JustGiving website).  I don’t know what has been counted in that figure but, out of interest, I checked what our published accounts for 2014 said we had spent to generate the income we had.  It was about 6p in the £1 and most of that was on costs associated with bank charges and fees to online giving sites.

It is a real dilemma for charities.  Should Partner West Africa (PWA), for instance, have spent another 10p in every £1 in the hope that it would generate more income? Should we ethically, have taken that risk with donations?  Speculate to accumulate?   Speculating to accumulate might also be considered part of being “business-like”.

That is an ethical question that everyone who donates to a charity needs to consider.  I think most of us want as much as we can to be spent on the beneficiaries of the charity we support.  In recognising that charities work in a competitive environment, we also have to decide what percentage of our donation we can accept being spent on generating the income for the charity. The BIG question then is what percentage of that income actually goes to the beneficiaries of the charity (rather than on the buildings and staff salaries etc. that have caused such concern in some quarters).  You can and should ask those questions of any charity you support.

And for those of you who want an answer to the question as far as Partner West Africa is concerned?  In 2014, and quoting words and figures from our published accounts, our “income from generating funds” was £42,032.  Of that £41,137 was spent on “charitable activities”. Over the next few weeks we will be posting short articles on the type of “charitable activities” we carry out, starting with a new project on malaria prevention.

The photos are of the PWA Daycare & Nursery Centre we support in Ghana with funding generated in the UK as part of our charitable activities.

Author: Sandy Craig - PWA Trustee

Donation Payment Methods


Charity Checkout accepts all major debit and credit cards and allows you to make one-off or monthly donations that will be used to support our charity in general, so if you would like to donate to a specific appeal, or become a sponsor of our Daycare & Nursery Centre, please follow the donation information provided within those specific appeals. All donations to PWA are regulated by the UK Charities Commission and in line with our Terms & Conditions. Thank you.


JustGiving is a great fundraising site for friends of our charity who would like to set up their own fundraising pages, alllowing your friends and family to donate towards your specific project, aims or objectives with PWA. If you set up a JustGiving fundraising page, you describe your story and reasons for supporting PWA & your donors can link through to PWA's JustGiving page to learn about our charity & its work. All donations are regulated by the UK Charities Commission and made in line with our Terms & Conditions. Thank you.

Direct Bank-to-Bank Transfers

PWA banks with the Co-operative Bank, UK, the leading bank for charitable organisations. If you are a UK or international bank account holder, donations can be made quickly & simply online. You can also use this method to make one-off donations or to set up monthly donations to our charity. Please contact us to request our bank account details to set up a bank transfer. All donations made to PWA are regulated by the UK Charities Commission & made in-line with our Terms & Conditions. Thank you.

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