Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Charity is what you make it - not always what you give!

So my coffee was almost spoiled, but I asked for a shot of caramel in it to take away the bitter taste of the twitter and things immediately felt better after that! (after all if life is about choices then choosing not to hold on to anger should probably count as a good choice! even with the extra calories attached!).

So I found out one (the main one! - you know the one with the systems issues, yes them - IdiotBuiltSystem-StuffedTheLeadtimes!) of the Christian book wholesalers over here are going to be chainging their name soon it would appear!
(Thanks to Fellow Twitter @notbovvered Fuller info can now be found on his excellent blog -
But also they are doing things like looking to lay off staff and then seemingly doing a recruitment drive and asking for volunteers, in what seems to me to be to in effect fill those paid staffers positions, and then claiming to be 100% Charity!

Well sorry to me that's playing a foul semantics card.
100% charity does not involve looking for ways to make your life/business better at the expense of people you are meant to have a duty to care for!!
Add to that given it is a commercial business (albeit a registered charity!) it's trickery to try to convince the customers that through supporting them 100% goes to charity - actaully it doesn't as most of it goes on admin, stock, overheads etc - very little of the customers spend makes it to the charity component - I should know I spent 14 years working for the same sort of retail/publishing/worldwide charity as these folks - and believe me the final sum going to the missions was less than 5% ! So again it's misleading and unfair to make these sorts of claims and do this sort of thing.

Heck my business isn't a charity - it provides for me, my family and staff with not much left over - and then most of that goes to the taxman as I render unto ceasar, but I give willingly to charity from that money because yes it is the right thing to do - and yes I have a nominated charity for my shop, and this year even though times are tough I am still giving - and last year I gave too, twice in fact! This is not to brag, but it's to point out that saying 100% charity is not saying anything if it isn't backed up by real action, (Mark 12:42) if you have thousands and give little, or have little and give as much as you can - well draw your own conclusions.

Again this issue is the unfairness and biasedness of the situation, the misuse of words and ethics to deliberately report something in a way not absolutely honestly truthful, but rather its propoganda marketing and spin if you ask me and if that makes sense! Seems to me some Christian Bookshop Chains & Charities seem to be loosing the concept somewhere, as this one seems to using the same secular and what to me seem to be somewhat ethically dubious activities such as we last saw demonstrated by SSG (SPCK/SSG as they were when they first tried the volunteer trick!). Shame that really.

So the question I ask all of you - and please do comment! - is:
Is it fair for charities running commercial & retail businesses to compete claiming 100% charity?

Oh and let me clearly state that in this I refer to businesses other than pure 'charity shops' that sell on only donated secondhand goods for the most part!
I mean businesses that really are full on retail and commercial businesses operating exactly the same as their secular counterparts - except of course for their registered charitable status.

ok, last thing, I am now truly a twit!
that is to say i am now on, so if any of you are also on there and want to chat/follow or be followed then you can find me at: @unicorntreebks

Anyway that's it for now - see you in the shop tomorrow and if you inhabit cybersphere only then don't forget you can shop through our A-shop and support us that way too - and feel free to donate to our nominated charity at any time!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

OK, so what's the best option:
a.) see that your business is struggling and do nothing;
b.) take difficult decisions, fully aware of the pain they will cause to some staff members to allow the business a good chance of surviving and preverving the jobs of the majority?

You and I were both working for a charity that took option a.) and look at the horror that ensued.

Personally, despite the issues it raises I am grateful that option b.) has been taken quickly. It is an appropriate response to a difficult situation.

Pax Vobiscum (can't work out how to leave a comment other than by hitting 'anonymous')

UnicorntreebooksBoss said...


Don't get me wrong, I don't see a fault with them trying to save their business, this is a necessary thing to do - and if the sales aren't there to support the shop or area and the jobs aren't there and redundancies necessary then fair go.

Heck Pax, you know full well in our previous employment I had to make that hard decision and actually make staff redundant 3 times over the years in my shop, so I understand fully the needs of the fiscal line - but I sure as heck never got rid of staff who needed their jobs and replaced them with volunteers while pretending to be 100% Charity!
That would not be a Charitable Act now would it!

Lets be honest about the word Charity and its root meaning - we are both theologically trained and knowledgeable people.
If this was a secular or non-christian 'charity' or business I would still be dubious of their ethics, but for a Christian Charity to act in what seems to me to be a less than reputable or honest way, well for me that's just not right and I consider it my biblically ascribed duty to point this out and challenge it.
I did it with my own employers, both of the s's, despite the hardships and heartache that caused and I can't do any other here either. Sorry.

But it is as far as I am concerned and to my way of thinking objectionable, unethical and uncharitable to cut staff, ie make redundancies and cause hardship to those people and immediately canvas for volunteers to fill those staffs places.
I am surprised it doesn't contravene or run afoul of redundancy legislation, I wonder if any of those staff were in USDAW what they would think of such actions - though one supposes being 100% Charity they can get away with it, as some leeway is afforded in how charities can operate I believe.

You mention our previous employers, well what WO/IBS-STL/Biblica have just done is to do exactly what SSG wanted to do and started to try for, I have the correspondence from when I argued against it then as morally and ethically wrong and I will do so here as well.
At this stage I am unsure where the difference is between the actions and the ethics behind it.

The same goes with claiming 100% Charity when it is a commercial business the same as most of the other Christian Bookshops out there, a lot of businesses in the christian trade are registered charities or committed not for profit businesses. and yes a lot of them use volunteers to enable them to trade, but then they always have - it's not been a case of laying off paid staff and replacing them with unpaid and then trying to justify their actions by loudly proclaiming 100% Charity! These businesses are all just as much 100% Charity and therefore should badge up accordingly!

Indeed some really are very much more 100% Charity, such as CLC Bookshops ( which I guess is also the most comparable model to IBS-STL/WO/Biblica, in terms of having both shops, wholesale and international components.
But the difference between the two is one really has operated more as a Charity and the other has and does, it would seem, operate more on a commercial enterprise model that just happens to be a registered charity.
After all CLC UK doesn't pay it's staff asking them to self fund and volunteer from the get go so that as much of their proceeds as possible really go to funding the charitable aims - now that is 100% charity and yet they aren't the ones making the splash - in fact they make a point of stating in their CLC international news that 'Part of what CLC does is a business and we do like to make a profit! However the “Bottom Line” by which we must measure ourselves is the impact that takes place in people’s lives'. It is explained elsewhere that the profit they make is then fed back into new missions and initiatives, as I am sure does any charity and not for profit etc.
But the difference is that's honest to a T and totally unmisleading, check out the credentials and see it for yourself.

So sorry Pax, can't fully agree with you on this one, it's a matter of scale, statement and apparent honesty.
Yes fine make the hard decisions, if the business isn't working and you have to make staff redundant then fine do it -if you really have to! but don't make out to be 'good' and charitable about it, few things worse than false piety to my reckoning.
Let's not forget that's livelihoods there that just got sacrificed, and you know there is that old adage, umm how does it go? Oh I know, Charity begins at Home!

Pax, Pax Vobiscum, and ever the best,