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Charities still reeling from aftershock of salary scandals

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The founder of the Jack and Jill Foundation, Jonathan Irwin, said the children’s charity has had to work extremely hard this year just to “finish in a break-even position”. Photo by Gerry Mooney.

The founder of the Jack and Jill Foundation, Jonathan Irwin, said the children’s charity has had to work extremely hard this year just to “finish in a break-even position”. Photo by Gerry Mooney.

Meritocracy is the new watch word for the Irish public sector

Meritocracy is the new watch word for the Irish public sector

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The founder of the Jack and Jill Foundation, Jonathan Irwin, said the children’s charity has had to work extremely hard this year just to “finish in a break-even position”. Photo by Gerry Mooney.

THE fall-out of the damaging controversy over salary top -ups paid to charity executives continues to impact on the fundraising efforts of some of Ireland's biggest charities this Christmas.

The aftershock of the controversy continues to be felt this Christmas, with donations to some of Ireland's biggest charities down by as much as 5pc compared with this time last year.

Just 35pc of voluntary organisations have registered with the sector's new regulator - exactly one year on from the charity scandal.

There are approximately 25,000 voluntary organisations in the country, according to the Department of Justice and The Ireland Funds.

However, the department this weekend confirmed less than 8,500 of these have, so far, registered with the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA).

"As of December 2, 2014, there are a total of 8,453 charities listed on the register of charities held by the CRA," a department spokesperson told the Sunday Independent.

The CRA is currently in the process of developing the first comprehensive register of charities operating in Ireland.

The 8,453 charities automatically joined the register last October because they qualify for tax exemption from Revenue under Section 40 of the Charities Act 2009.

However, the other 16,547 or so voluntary organisations that are not tax exempt are still being pursued by the regulator.

As of December 2, just 26 charities had begun the registration process. And while the CRA is not yet fully resourced, it has already logged 17 complaints relating to charities and other voluntary organisations. Meanwhile, charities are still counting the cost of last year's scandals.

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It was hoped donations would rise again after the dust settled on the controversies, but many charities have suffered a further drop in their fortunes.

While some charities said it was too early to say how their donations were looking this Christmas compared with this time last year, a number admitted that recovery was slow.

Concern, Jack and Jill, the Peter McVerry Trust and St Vincent de Paul all estimated that December 2014's donation levels are the same as the last Christmas period.

Trocaire said it is down 5pc, but Oxfam stated it was up 10pc on last year.

A spokesman for St Vincent de Paul told the Sunday Independent: "We estimate that donations to date in 2014, are running level with the same period in 2013 which was approximately 10pc below 2012. However in 2013, donations recovered in the final three weeks of December and ended about 5pc better than 2012 thanks to the generosity of the Irish public at Christmas time."

Last year, the charity raised €44m in donations. However, the experience of Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin has not been so positive.

The Children's Medical and Research project is still €2m short of its fundraising target of €12.5m this year. A spokeswoman for the fundraising arm of the hospital said last year's Christmas campaign was "obliterated" by the scandals.

Homeless charities the Simon Community and Focus Ireland both said that it was too soon to make a comparison on donation levels, but that together they had experienced a spike in the demand for the services of 25pc this year.

The Central Remedial Clinic, which was at centre of the top-ups controversy, was unsurprisingly, one of the organisations worst affected in fundraising terms. In 2012, it raised €508,890 in fundraising and donations. Last year, it raised €328,961.

Irish Autism Action is also feeling the hit. The charity raised €861,806 up to the end of November this year, a massive drop from the €1.64m recorded donations it received in 2012.

The Alzheimer Society said its local fundraising efforts continue to be affected by the scandals of last year.

Both Our Ladies Hospice and the Marie Keating Foundation said donations appear to be on a par with last year.

The founder of the Jack and Jill Foundation, Jonathan Irwin, said the children's charity has had to work extremely hard this year just to "finish in a break-even position".

 

Riding out the controversies: how some of the country’s biggest charities fared

The Central Remedial Clinic:

THE scandal-hit organisation at the centre of the top-ups controversy for using public funds to bolster executive salaries and prop up staff pensions was, unsurprisingly, one of the organisations worst affected by the drop in charitable donations. Last year the CRC raised just €328,961, a massive drop from the €508,890 in fundraising and donations in 2012. Following a boardroom clear-out, the new CRC directors abandoned the traditional Christmas Santa Bear appeal this year, and fundraising staff have been reassigned to other areas.

 

The Children’s Medical and Research Project:

A spokesperson for the fundraising arm of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, said the “top-ups” controversy continues to affect efforts to raise money. The Children’s Medical & Research Foundation is still €2m short of its fundraising target of €12.5m this year. Last year’s Christmas campaign was “obliterated” by the scandals, a spokeswoman for the fundraising arm of the hospital said.

 

Irish Autism Action:

Income also dropped because public confidence in the charity has been damaged, according to Irish Autism Ireland chief executive Kevin Whelan. The charity raised €861,806 up to the end of November this year and €50,000 from Christmas raffles and donations this time last year. But it’s main fundraising drive will be World Autism Day in April.

 

The Alzheimer’s Society:

The charity reports its local fundraising efforts continue to be affected by the scandals of last year, although its national fundraising campaigns have not. Alzheimer‘s Society said it hopes to make its target for this year’s Christmas appeal of €135,000. Despite the controversies last year, the same appeal this time last year reached its target of €120,000.

 

Our Lady’s Hospice:

THE hospice reports that the decline in fundraising this year has thankfully been “very slight”. It has raised €2m so far this year and hopes to raise another €450,000 over Christmas.

 

Marie Keating Foundation:

THE cancer charity says it has not been affected by the controversies, but that some of its supporters have been affected by the recession. “Understandably the general public has become more curious about exactly how their donation is being spent,” a spokesperson said.


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