Sunday, 22 February 2015


Last Monday, Made in Chelsea’s Binky Felstead found herself on the front cover of The Sun after reportedly being paid £20,000 to front an advertising campaign for the children’s charity Barnardo’s. It later emerged that the fee amount reported may have been inflated from £3,000 but this did little to placate the critics of both Felstead and the charity who stated it was both wrong of Binky to take a fee from a non-profit organisation and wrong of the charity to spend its donations doing so.

The comments are still rolling in on Binky’s Instagram – the picture of her holding a handwritten sign saying ‘Please follow @barnardosretail on Instagram’ which caused the outrage is still live. But is the hatred justified?

Shortly after the news broke, the CEO of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, posted a blog on the charity’s official website in which he stated that Barnardo’s hoped the campaign with Felstead would drum up ‘£100,000 of donated stock’. That’s £97,000 of profit, which by anybody’s standards would be a good business transaction. Barnardo’s have 590 charity shops, which raise over £11m per year selling donated goods. They also reported £285.8m in income last year alone – that’s big money. They spent just over £278m of that – their largest expenditure pot was nearly £206m on ‘charitable activities’ which in non-annual report speak I think means helping out the disadvantaged children that the charity was set up to support. If you look at it like that, £3000 is a drop in the ocean.

It seems to me that the people who were really shocked by this have been slow to cotton on to the fact that many charities have been operating like businesses for years. Leo Benedictus, writing for The Guardian online, raised the point that charities have bills and salaries to pay and they’re subject to no discounts when they advertise on television or in print. Charity shops are not only competing with the lower end of the high street, they’re competing with each other and there’s only so many donations to go around. Can you blame Barnardo’s for trying to get ahead? When outside agencies and the media treat them like businesses are they wrong to act as one?
People don’t like to think of charities as businesses, I know I don’t, but sadly, I don’t think enough money can be raised on good will alone. When you buy from a charity shop, you’d be naïve to think your money goes directly to benefitting someone. Charities employ thousands of people and those employees need to be paid before any funds can be raised. You wouldn’t expect those employees to work for nothing, you wouldn’t criticise them or say they weren’t true supporters of the charity for taking charity money each month because you know they need money to survive.
Is Binky just different because she’s famous for being on a television programme all about flaunting excessive wealth? Maybe she was just a bad choice on Barnardo’s part.

But just a word about salaries – across the charity retail sector, they’re awful. Having worked in the sector in the past, I can also say that Barnardo’s are one of the worst in terms of remuneration of their charity shop managers. £3,000 is nearly three months salary for the majority of charity shop managers who work really hard to meet near-to-impossible retail targets and in difficult staffing environments. All Binky did was hold up a sign.
Furthermore, your average charity shop probably looks to make about £170 a day, which is just over £5,000 a month. Yesterday, I watched my favourite charity shop close its doors for the last time. The decision was made to close the shop because they weren’t making enough money. I’m sure their deficit last year wasn’t more than a few thousand – would it not be better to plough a £3,000 celebrity fee into making up a shortfall like that in order to keep a shop open, keep the staff in their jobs, keep the charity on the high street and raise awareness that way?
But then we’re back to ethics versus business decisions.

My other gripe with this came after reading something on the Barnardo’s blog in which Mr Khan, CEO states ‘Charities are facing enormous pressure to meet the demands of our celebrity-focused culture…Barnardo’s is fortunate in the number of celebrities who are willing to give up their time free to support the direct work we do with children…[but] we have struggled in the past to find celebrities to front recent retail campaigns’.
(Let’s put aside that Mr Khan’s salary is no doubt six figures and there’s been no media outrage directed at him, which forced him to donate some of it back).
Are charities forced to meet the demands of a celebrity-focused culture? That’s news to me. People shop in charity shops because they like the excitement of a potential hidden treasure and because they don’t always want to pay high prices. I, for one, could not care less if someone from a reality show is displayed in the window of a shop! What were Barnardo’s hoping to gain? They say they needed help driving donations. Binky posted a link to an Instagram page which showcases some items found in different Barnardo’s stores – there’s nothing about donating? When the news broke, I had a look at Binky’s Instagram and there was another photo (which has since been removed) showing her doing some kind of fashion shoot for the charity. I suspect that has now been canned but surely showing what gems you can find in a Barnardo’s shop would’ve been a better direction to go in?

Some charities are a bit of a different breed – Barnardo’s is one of them, there’s big money involved and they seem to want to keep expanding. Sometimes that’s not always for the best – just look at Tesco.
For the record, I think it’s wrong that Binky even considered accepting £3,000 for displaying a poorly-written sign on Instagram and I’d be very upset with my employer if I was a Barnardo’s shop manager earning £12,000 a year but I think it’s silly of people to say they won’t donate to Barnardo’s anymore of they won’t shop there. It’s naïve to think that when you buy a £4 jumper in a charity shop, a child or an older person or an animal is somehow £4 better off. It just doesn’t work like that. Barnardo’s didn’t use your money to pay Binky but they do seem to have a strange idea of what us charity shop lovers want! I'll be very interested to see how damaging or beneficial this will be when the next annual report surfaces.

Char x

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