RSPB Supporters Are Seriously Annoyed With...
...the RSPB. The word cloud shows what RSPB donors said about it in an opinion poll. The pollsters had just told them that the RSPB accounts show that it spends only 24% of its income on running its nature reserves. £29m out of £122m. The RSPB donors thought it was far more.
Source: TNS online poll of 1,018 people. Fieldwork, September 2014
In part that’s because the charity’s slogan is “Giving Nature A Home”. Donors think that means that the RSPB is prioritising creating habitats for birds. It’s an expectation reinforced by the RSPB home page which reassures donors that “90p in every pound goes directly towards our conservation work.”
The large RSPB marketing and PR teams who will explain why they are not misleading the public hold a clue to where the other 76% goes.
The RSPB accounts reveal it has 379 fundraisers along with countless others in PR and policy making. They don’t reveal how many millions are spent on TV advertising. Or how much "conservation money" is being spent on political lobbying on climate change. Or why its executive team is housed in a mansion. Homes for office workers? Or homes for birds?
Charities have to spend on fundraising and efficiency is to be applauded. Except when the messages become deeply misleading.
Our concerns are:
- Firstly that the RSPB’s pledge that 90p is going directly on conservation is very difficult to square with its accounts
- Secondly that its donors clearly feel misled about how little is going on bird habitat
It’s time for RSPB members at their AGM to press for answers and to insist on publication of the full management accounts.
Tapping on laptops does not feed birds. But armies of fundraisers and multi million pound TV adverts do suck money away from other charities - wildlife charities that focus their spending on creating bird habitats not glossy adverts. For them the RSPB looks like it's evolving into the charity world’s version of Goldman Sachs - what Rolling Stones Magazine described as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
The risk is that its massive fundraising effort is not just providing unfair competition for other charities but also becoming a millstone around its own neck. It has to raise so much money simply to keep its fundraising team paid. On top of that it also has a ballooning pension deficit which soared to £67 million last year.