Saturday, July 16, 2005

NKF - reality check

NKF "saga"

Long term
I had some strong reactions, but I guess in the end what's of utmost concern in the long term is whether the system in place that is supposed to regulate how public charity collections are utilised is sufficiently accountable. It's quite disappointing that it takes an ironic and extraordinary twist of a defamation suit gone wrong to expose all these details of bad practices. Granted, NKF is not your typical local charity in terms of size and amount of collections so I guess we can take this as a lesson and set higher regulatory standards. Another sound idea mooted by PM is that perhaps excess funds (if you ask me, the temptation of the millions stuck there was just too great) be redistributed to other charities under various umbrella organizations.

NKF board resignation
It's a wise move for the board to resign as this will salvage the NKF name which has been built with much hard work. At least in this move we know the board and government, which I'm sure played a significant hand in the decision, have the interests of the NKF charitable cause at heart and don't want it being pulled down utterly together with these revelations.

Dishonest? Criminal?
The revelations were a a public shocker for understandable reasons. For the typical man-on-the-street, the image of golden taps paid for by public donations is something that will stick. Most people have an expectation of a charity. And those revelations were definately not what they expected.

A charity is a business is a charity is a business
Some people I spoke to think that it the perks were alright. After all, top dollar for top talent. Perhaps we're forgetting that this is not a business or company and that money raised from charity is a COLLECTION and not an EARNING. If you ask me, there's something terribly wrong about pegging Mr Durai's 10-month bonus to his 'performance' of having raised lots of money. Don't get me wrong, efforts should be lauded and rewarded no doubt, but how do you draw the line? Seems like the board drew it at 10 months. Civil servants get 1 or 2 month bonus and everyone nags. 10 months. Come on. I FORGOT, DID ANYONE SHOW THE DONORS WHO DONATED MORE ANY APPRECIATION?

The terminology is disturbing though and is a reflection of what WF put it as "the blurring of the line between a business and a charity".

What change is this? For example, we need to pay the top management top dollar to generate as much donations as possible. The consideration of NKF as a "brand-name". I'd rather call it the spirit or ideal. To me, this is evil (yes! hahaha) marketing terminology and mindset taking over everywhere, even in how charities are run.

Mr Durai talks about how he built up the brand name etcetc and I know he has worked hard. Proud that you donated because you had a chance to win a condo or car? Entralled by the dangerous and exciting stunts that you decided to donate to help a needy kidney patient? Excellent marketing tactics don't you think? What's more the product you're selling is... without competition and based on sympathy! Sometimes I get carried away by the prizes and end up with heaps of guilt when I realise that SMS was actually from NKF.

I hear echos of "so what?" As long as we get the money pouring in, patients getting help, who cares what really motivated people to donate? You come down from your idealistic cloud high up there and wake up, THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS!

Well, but I would never know your motivation to donate right? So I'd not comment and just take the money. I suspect that's what Durai and Co were thinking. Fine. After a while, the money swells up so rapidly beyond what they need and instead of distributing it to other charities (hey, they don't even have to be related - social causes, halfway houses, orphanages), they start to develop a sense of ownership over the funds (my talented marketing and promotion genius caused all these collections - they're mine!), and do all these guilt-ridden things.

How did we know they were guilt-ridden things? Because they tried to hide them! Lied about them. And arragont they were. Sued those who spoke out against them. Got away with it twice. Their head swelled. They tried it again against a party that always covers its back - the press. And SPH just replies with some casual blows and now the whole world knows their little secrets.

Moving on
1 thing that is clear is... there's lying and coverup going on. And no way is the public going to stand for that with their donations. I recommend an audit. Bring all expenditures and perks to light. They say they've done nothing wrong? Then be ready to be cleared and declared innocent, or else to face disgrace, or possible criminal litigation. They should come clean with the books - rather than let this cloud linger over the rest of their public life.

I think they learnt something the hard way - they're a charity, not a business. And its clear from public reaction that most people still distinguish a charity from a business. They didn't only donate to win that condo. Amen to that.

And government regulation regarding charities should be revamped. For charities beyond a certain size, more transparency.

As for the use of stunts and lucky draws to entice donors - I leave that to whichever is the source of your moral guidance.

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