Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Charity begins at home

I follow John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, on Twitter.  A couple of months back, (I know I really am bad at updating this blog), he posted a number of tweets about Acts 435 - a charity which he is a patron to and which he promotes on his official website

The charity is named after Verse 35 in Acts 4, which is a tale about sharing resources.
"And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

Acts 4:35 (King James Version)

Acts 435, is promoted and managed by CofE churches and involves people in need requesting financial assistance for specific items (up to a maximum of £100 a time) from others.  Donors then match their donations to the specific requests.  There is a limit on assistance, currently set £300 a year.

In order to obtain associated tax and other benefits, charities need to register with the Charities Commission.   In turn, charities are required to make their accounts publicly available, so we can see the benefit they are providing.  As a result, Acts 435's accounts for 2010 and 2011 are available on the Charity commission’s website

These accounts provide a fascinating (to me at least), insight into who this charity has benefited most... 

In its first year Acts 435 had a healthy income of £59,999, yet only managed to distribute a measly  £6,985 in grants.  The main reason for distributing less than 12% of what it received appears to be the £24,434 cost of generating voluntary income.

Note 5 to the 2010 accounts explains some of this expense when it states:
"One trustee acted as Director of the Charity during the year and received £13,183 for professional services rendered during the year."
Also of interest is Note 13, which provides an explanation of the high debtors figure in the balance sheet:
"Included in Debtors and Prepayments is an amount of £9,534 which has been paid on account to Margaret Sentamu, a trustee, for project consultancy services."
This debt reflects the fact that the charity paid the Archbishop's wife Margaret Sentamu for services she hasn’t performed, effectively providing an interest free loan.  I think it is fair to assume that Margaret Sentamu is also the trustee who provided the professional services.  In other words, over the course of the first year,  the poor and needy received £6,985, capped at £300 per person, whilst she received £22,717.

The accounts for 2011 tell a similar story.  The Charity’s total income was £49,147 of which it paid out £17,592 in grants to the needy.  £30,006 was spent in generating that income.  A huge amount considering the claim in the charity's FAQs
the running costs of the charity .. are kept to an absolute minimum with no fundraising department nor fund-raisers employed.”
Once again Margaret Sentamu was responsible for some of those fund raising costs.  Note 10 to the accounts states:
 "Included in Other Debtors is an amount of £4,505 (2010 -£9,534) which has been paid on account to Margaret Sentamu, a trustee, for project consultancy services. The amount expensed to the Statement of Financial Activities during the year was £5,029 (2010 -£15,466).”
What this means is that she worked off part of her loan during the year.  This note appears to correct the previous accounts suggesting that she was paid £15,466 in 2010 as opposed to the £13,183 originally declared.

So, during Acts 435 first two years of operation,  it  received £109,146 and paid out £24,577 in grants to the poor and needy.  During the same period, it also paid  £25,000 to Margret Sentamu.

It is only fair to point out that Margaret Sentamu is a freelance consultant who specialises in diversity management and recruitment consultancy, and who has an interest in relieving poverty (whose poverty is not specified in her bio).

Mrs Sentamu's expertise in diversity management and recruitment must have been invaluable when it came to employing the Charity's er...ONE part time worker.