I know, I know… my efforts to get out this “weekly” round-up have been pretty lamentable of late. In my defence, the combination of media silly season and annual leave have conspired against me.
In any case, I’m back on track now (for this week at least), so here are the choice cuts of the last few weeks:
1) I’m going to start this week with a fairly high-minded article from the Wall Street Journal about the interaction of philanthropy and democracy. It’s a subject I’m particularly interested in, but if it doesn’t float your boat feel free to skip to the stories about football and Game of Thrones… In any case, this article challenges the view that philanthropy is a force for “saving” or “rebuilding” democracy, as it is inherently undemocratic. I think this is true in many ways, although the fact that philanthropy circumvents the democratic process is not always a bad thing. I will be writing about this more in the near future, so watch this space if you’re interested.
2) At number two, and only marginally rarer than hen’s teeth, is a positive story about a Premiership footballer. Everton player Steven Naismith has purchased home tickets to his team’s games this coming season, which he plans to give away to unemployed fans in Liverpool. This seems like a genuinely thoughtful and decent act on his part, and if anyone wants to read more on this story, the New York Times carried an interesting piece contrasting Naismith’s charitable deeds with those of Mario Balotelli (spoiler alert: Balotelli doesn’t come out of it very well).
3) Third up is more on the George R. R. Martine Game of Thrones charity story. You may recall from a previous round-up that the author was auctioning the chance for one male and one female reader to win the right to appear as a character in his next novel and be killed, in aid of a wolf sanctuary. Although both of those prizes were snapped up pretty quickly by big money donors, it emerged that a 13-year-old fan in the UK donated all of his £153 pocket money and Martin was so touched by the gesture that he has promised to donate $10,000 in the boy’s name to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. And a Lannister always pays his debts…
4) In fourth spot is a very good blog from the Huffington Post UK about the challenges that international counter-terrorism finance regulations are posing for charities in the UK and elsewhere. This is an extremely important issue for many charities that operate in difficult parts of the world, as recent tightening of these regulations are making life very difficult for them. For instance, we saw the news the other day that HSBC has decided to close the current accounts of a number of muslim charitable organisations due to a change in its “risk appetite”, which sparked a backlash from many who accused the bank of “Islamophobia”. It’s certainly an issue that isn’t going away any time soon.
5) And finally… A story that has the requisite amount of quirk, but also a tinge of despair about human nature. London Zoo has come under fire after it emerged that its hugely successful late evening openings (which raise £800,000 a year) have become tainted by drunken behaviour. Whilst on the face of it, a news story that involves a man “pouring beer on a tiger” and another one “stripping off an attempting to swim with penguins” is hilarious, when you actually stop and think about the effect it will have had on the animals, it’s quite depressing. And there’s also an important lesson for charities about balancing the effectiveness of certain forms of fundraising against the potential longer-term damage they can do to an organisation’s reputation.