The charity sector had its heyday in the 80s and 90s; impassioned (and sometimes angry) celebrity champions such as Bob Geldof shouted through the TV ‘give us your f..king money!’ and huge numbers did! The scale of support for charitable causes was perhaps a reaction to the greed of the time, a ‘materialism offset’ that balanced things out and helped people feel good about themselves. People tipped their cash into buckets or pledged over the phone during the era of ‘athons’ because it aligned them to an activity that was thoroughly worthwhile and unquestionably good. The media loved charity, celebs loved charity, and everyone wore as many charity wristbands as they could.
Fast-forward a dozen or so years and the landscape had changed, the message had got confused and the cause had been forgotten in a stream of bad press. Repeated scandals eroded our faith; the media, once a champion, became a significant factor in this erosion. Everyone started to ask: does the money really get to where it should?
The summer of 2015 saw the tragic suicide of Olive Cooke, a 92-year-old pensioner (the UK’s longest-serving poppy seller). Olive had allegedly become overwhelmed by the relentless pressure from the many charities asking for a share of her small pension. Three years on from this tragedy and following well-publicised investigations into both Olive’s death and charity fundraising practices in the sector as a whole, public trust is slowly being regained as charities have responded by working to get their houses in order. But is the sector as a whole going far enough?