I have a reasonably good and prosperous life, so I do like to give back, albeit probably not as much as I should or can afford. I have several charities to whom I have authorised direct debit on a monthly basis, as the main way that I give back.
One of them is, or rather was, or perhaps unavoidably still is, White Ribbon Foundation. White Ribbon Foundation is intended to raise awareness of domestic violence, so as to eliminate it at it’s sources.
White Ribbon went into administration in early October, whilst I was in Italy. When I returned, a direct debit was taken out of my credit card in mid October. I then contacted White Ribbon by email to cancel my direct debit, and got no reply. I assume that by then, the office no longer was attended. So I contacted the administrators, and was assured that direct debit was going to stop.
Mid November, another $25 comes out of my credit card, and I contact the administrators again. Again, I am reassured that the bank account that is collecting these debits is being closed down.
Yesterday, I see another $25 coming out of my account, so I have now approached my bank about disputing the transaction with White Ribbon’s bank. Hopefully this results in this now dead charity finally stopping the debits.
Cancelling my credit card and getting one with a new number issued is not really an option I want to consider except as a last resort. I have my electricity, gas, phone, Apple Music and three other charities doing regular direct debits, and it is a considerable administrative burden to me to move these onto another credit card – I would need to find a window of time where there are no direct debits for a few days.
Which leads me to reflect on charity and regular giving. We give to charities because we don’t have the time or know how or contacts to do good works directly ourselves, so we trust that charities are able to do those good works on our behalf. Hopefully, that involves making the world a better (or at least a less bad) place in some way or alleviating some suffering.
But we don’t always do our due diligence on charities. I expect that the other charities I support currently (Mission Australia, Fred Hollowes Foundation, Berry Street) are well run and are spending most of their funding doing good works on my behalf. I am not sure that this was the case for White Ribbon. Aside from the very critical news articles about questionable policy decisions White Ribbon was making, there appear to have been a number of governance issues which I ignored.
Firstly, you could register as a donor online rather than by speaking to a live person on the phone. That suggests that they are not well enough resourced to have live people taking the donations – or to speak to donors about such matters as the direct debit of their funds.
Secondly, White Ribbon did not send me a tax receipt for the 2017-18 financial year. I only received one for the 2018-19 financial year after I contacted them by email. This suggests that they are not properly organised as to be accountable to the proper governance standards expected of a charity.
Those things were red flags I ignored. But there were others, looking back, that I should have looked at.
Thirdly, there has been a revolving door of CEOs in the time where I have been a regular donor. That does not augur well for a charity. It indicates dissension and uncertainty at the leadership levels of the organisation.
Fourthly, White Ribbon spent most of it’s relatively small budget on administration. As they are focused on raising awareness rather than providing services or material help, this is to be expected. But I should have reflected a little more closely as to whether this is what I expected from a charity I support, or whether I should have chosen to go with a charity which focuses on addressing the suffering. After all, White Ribbon seems to have had little effective idea about how, noble though the goal is, it was to achieve it’s objectives.
Hopefully it all gets sorted through my bank and I do not have to cancel my credit card. But it does cause me to think more closely than usual as to whether any worthy cause I wish to support deserves my money more than another. I will be more thoughtful in choosing to whom I next offer my $25 per month donation.