Harlow Foodbank explain why they are not taking part in the community lottery

Charity / Tue 30th Apr 2024 at 12:10pm

EARLIER this year, Harlow Council announced they were launching a community lottery.

Harlow Community Lottery is a weekly lottery that raises money for good causes in Harlow.

All good causes supported by the lottery will benefit Harlow and its residents.

However, not every organisation has decided to take part.

The Michael Roberts Charitable Trust (MRCT) is one of the organisations that has decided not to take part.

The MRCT runs the Harlow Foodbank as well as the Bounty Club.

With many financial pressures on all charities and especially one with an annual wage bill of £271,000, it is quite a moral stance.

Chief executive Andy Thornton explained: “This is because unlike other lottery products, in this localised version, the charities advertise themselves and promote the lottery process as a seemingly endorsed method of support for their charity.

“We’d prefer they gave to us directly!

By comparison, on the theme of lotteries, when we are awarded money from the National or Postcode Lotteries, the people have chosen to play the lottery and the money is already ‘in’.

Personally I have never bought a lottery ticket and I’d prefer it that people paid more taxes and national money was raised that way,  but those days are gone. Similarly, we have received donations from Mecca Bingo in Harlow, where the company matched the giving of customers. But they were not asked to play Bingo for Harlow Foodbank. 

We know that some of our loyal supporters would worry that if we were involved with this local version of the lottery we would thereby be implicitly endorsing a form of gambling ‘for our benefit’ (which would be seen as morally ill-advised) as opposed to giving us the full amount of money they wish to donate.

“Similalrly it is probable that a number of our clients at the Foodbank have hit crisis point because of gambling – they may have been referred by Citizens Advice who similarly don’t look to take income from the local lottery as it would be a confusing message or double-standard.

“We have refused donations before from corporates we think cross the line (eg involvement in the arms trade).  Such decisions are simpler compared to smaller local organisations. To keep perspective on this – next year we expect to turn over more than £600,000. The kinds of income that may even be slightly dubious are marginal and we are navigating a tricky passage between not passing judgement or scrutinising every donor’s motive whilst avoiding promoting activities that cause harm. 

“I hope that helps – just as I hope that this doesn’t become represented as a big issue for us, as apart from trust and foundation donors, the vast amount of money that comes our way every year is from local people giving regularly and freely because they support us directly”.

“Like many faith-based charities, MRCT has an ethical donations policy that is designed to maintain
the integrity between our mission and purpose and any consequences that may arise from accepting
gifts that compromise our good standing with regular supporters.

“This policy is devised to serve the greater good which, we believe, requires us to be vigilant about
the public perceptions behind our charity’s motivations and ethics.

“Our work invites people to stand
in solidarity with our beneficiaries. We believe it is possible for people to give to MRCT without any
expectation of reputational benefit drawn from association with our activities.

“In our experience, we have few conflicts of this kind, and this policy should clarify why we might ever
raise exceptions.

“As an open and inclusive Christian organisation we are founded to support all people, and
particularly the marginalised and those who are socially excluded. Any exceptions to a
correspondingly open donation policy relates to what is often described as the basic minimum of any
philanthropic activity: that it should ‘do no harm’.

“Such conflicts arise when donor groups are involved in activities such as: profiting from businesses
that result in harm to innocent civilians; transgressing human rights; avoiding transparency and thus
scrutiny for corruption or social harm; showing contempt for the sustainability of the planet;
involvement in illegal or immoral financial practices, or who are actively antagonistic towards people
of faith or our beneficiaries. This list is not designed to be exhaustive, but to be illustrative of our
general principles.

“We are aware that many individuals in such groups or organisations are sincere and generous in
their support of our beneficiaries. We welcome their donations, or donations they attract from
fundraising efforts explicitly publicised to direct money or goods towards our work. These are
perceived as donations from like-minded individuals.

“However, we reserve the right to turn down corporate gifts from organisations in any of the
categories above, or to require any donations of money, goods or volunteering time to be entirely
confidential should we conclude together this it might risk harm to the publicly perceived integrity of
our charity. Any such dispute would be on an organisational level and we would wish all members or
employees of the organisation well.

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6 Comments for Harlow Foodbank explain why they are not taking part in the community lottery:

2024-04-30 16:06:26

"Like many faith based charities etc,etc" This statement is a little contradictory bearing in mind the recent acceptance of a donation amounting to some £15k

2024-04-30 18:40:10

It is reasonable and advisable for this organisation to maintain a donations policy, as do the majority of reputable charities. However, bearing in mind the content of their policy, it is perplexing that they recently accepted a donation from Ms Burd, given her history of expressing extreme views. For instance, she publicly supported a foreign politician with dubious human rights records and has made racist remarks on her social media accounts. This seems contradictory to the organisation’s stated values of inclusivity and non-harm. Additionally, their policy mandates transparency from donors, which raises questions about their research into, and awareness of, the community’s concerns regarding Ms Burd’s lack of transparency and her organisation’s exclusionary decision-making process. Given these factors, I'm deeply unsettled by their acceptance of the donation; this seems completely at odds with their current stance and questions their due diligence procedures.

2024-04-30 20:13:40

Confused Bridge: if there's proof that Ms Burd's CIC has acted illegally or contravened charity or the laws governing companies then you seem to be working on the basis of rumour and hearsay. The aims of the original allotment project and schools projects look good. Also the Food Bank has explained why it does not support what is a form of gambling and it's very different from accepting a donation from a legally registered non gambling organisation that's entitled to make donations. If you disagree then perhaps you are raising funds or working voluntarily for the food bank to keep their costs down incurred by them providing what unfortunately has become an essential service.

2024-04-30 21:25:47

Nostradamus, indeed, I have seen evidence of the political support and the racist remarks Ms Burd has made - this evidence was publicly available on her social media accounts. My comment that this appears to contradict the organisation’s stated values is valid. I have no particular view on their decision not to engage with the community lottery and have therefore not expressed an opinion.

2024-05-01 08:54:21

Nostradamus like Bridge I'm a bit bemused by your comments. Yes there have been no criminal charges instigated but there are lots of reasons why it would have been wiser to step away from accepting the donation as outlined by Bridge

2024-05-02 05:30:48

Nostradamus - if everything is above board, why has Ms Burd disappeared? She closed the Facebook group without warning and deleted her own Facebook account. She’s given away a fraction of the money given to her in good faith and no one except her knows what’s happened to the rest of it.

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