As my long-term readers know I am not a great fan of awards and the Charity of the Year Awards is among my pet dislikes. This is because while entry is free (for these awards at least), it costs £2,100 (plus VAT) for a table of 10 for the winners to attend the awards. Is this the best way of spending donors’ money?
I gritted my teeth when I read the write up for the 2011 Awards (held at the London Park Lane Hilton last October) and then read that the winners’ CEO (Parkinson’s UK) said: “We really didn’t expect this award at all, but it was a real shock and honour when we did.” So why book a table to attend awards which you don’t even expect to win? (I presume they didn’t know in advance that they were the winners).
But more annoying is the fact that in Charity Times the report does not give any real facts and figures. There were photographs of all the winners, and their teams, but no reason why they won. Samaritans apparently had the Best use of the Web, but what this actually meant, how it was rated, and how it was judged is not given. Halton Haven Hospice was given the best ‘Corporate Community Local Involvement’ award, but no details of how this was achieved, or why they were so much better than dozens of other charities. Build Africa was announced the best charity to work for, but how was this decided? And so it goes on.
There is always a risk that the public will take such awards seriously, thinking that they are awarded on a fair assessment or that the awarding body has some sort of authority, and that therefore ‘such and such’ a charity really is better than another one operating in the same area.
The public does not realise that the reason Charity A got awarded a prize was because it spent a lot of time applying and spent money on going to the awards ceremony. The fact that charities B, C and D did not, meant that they were not recognised even though they were excellent charities (and who knows, possibly ‘better’). I am sceptical about the value of awards in the charity sector and cynical about the way they are made.