Monday, 13 August 2007

The big givers to charity

Charity Times has produced some interesting statistics. Apparently half of the richest people in UK had donated to charity in the previous month, and donated an average of £60. And the average wealthy donor gives just 0.8% of his or her earnings.
And another interesting fact was that US donors give nearly double their UK counterparts. And finally, it was noted that donations by the wealthy are increasing -- by over 300% in the past three years.

We have noticed a dramatic increase in larger donations, but we always emphasise, that our belief is that most donors are inherently as generous as they can afford to be -- the pensioner giving £25 may be giving a higher proportion of his or her disposable income, than a young financial whizz-kid giving £25,000. And £25 does still save half an acre of rainforest.

And, perhaps more importantly, the numerous smaller donations, provide some of the raison d'etre for some of the larger, corporate donors supporting the work of the WLT -- they like to feel that the Trust has a wide range of supporters.

Friday, 10 August 2007

VAT and Carbon and Charities

One of the problems besetting charities these days is the amount of legislation and other paperwork that is involved.

VAT is a major problem for many charities, since they cannot claim much of it back, even if they are registered.

And then there is trading. When the World Land Trust set up its carbon balanced programme, it was probably the first charity to offer any form of traceable carbon offsets. Now of course any number are jumping on the bandwagon. However, as we have found out it is not quite as simple as it appears at first, and other charities will no doubt find out in due course. If there is a service provided, then the income is subject to VAT. And a service is very widely defined. For instance, when a company puts a charity's logo on its website, saying it has carbon balanced with the World Land Trust, that is deemed a benefit to the company, and therefore subject to VAT. And of course this is a potential accounting nightmare.

I mention this, because some companies carbon balancing with the World Land Trust have wondered why, since we are a charity, we are charging them VAT. Unfortunately, the advice we have is that we have to. Not all charities seem to be aware of this, but we are always very cautious, since tax can be claimed retrospectively.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Green Consumerism -- an oxymoron

I get pretty fed up with the sort of environmentalist who thinks that switching of a light bulb or two is going to save the planet. While I do agree that the individual could do a lot more to make the world a better place, unfortunately the real action has to come from higher up the food chain. Switching off a light bulb is where I started, so I will carry on. All over the world, visible from outer space, lights are illuminating the night sky. Flying anywhere in the world, from 40,000 feet above the earth, street lights are visible. Thousands of megawatts of energy are pumped into the night sky. And if we aren't worried about this enormous waste of energy, then we should worry about the impact on biodiversity.

Fifty years ago, I remember moths and other night-flying insects being a real problem if a window was left open at night in suburban London where I grew up. Insects flew around street lights, which were generally switched off around midnight.

Now there are tens of thousands more street lights, every little village seems to have them, and intercity motorways even have them, and they burn continuously throughout the hours of darkness. Why? After about midnight, in most places there are few if any pedestrians. Is it a primeval fear of darkness asserting itself in the 21st century? Is it really so dangerous to walk in darkness? Is the world so much more dangerous than it was in 1890?

There has been a huge amount published about the effects of street lighting on wildlife, and I have blogged about it before. My point here is that we should all be doing more to force government, at every level from the parish, city, borough, district, county, state, national level -- wherever appropriate -- to tackle the real issues. A 10p tax on plastic bags; realistic public transport fares, that don't simply encourage pointless journeys, penalise retailers that encourage overpackaging (why is it that organic food is among the most overpackaged, and often comes with airmiles as well?).

Then we should tackle green consumerism. An oxymoron if ever there was one.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Biofuels, ethanol, biodiesel and rainforests.

Just as one environmental disaster seems to get proper attention another rears its ugly head. Climate change is at last being taken seriously, and the impact of burning fossil fuels recognised. So what happens? George Bush and other world leaders start encouraging us to use 'biofuels'. Unfortunately among the most efficient (i.e. profitable) ways of producing biofuels are from sugar cane and palm oil. And the easiest way of producing large quantities of these is to cut down tropical rainforests (thereby releasing even more CO2 into the atmosphere, as well as wiping out even more biodiversity).

Which makes the WLTs attempts to save rainforests all the more urgent.

Sir David Attenborough in Netherlands

James Randi, the indeftigable exposer of fakers and frauds has an excellent website, and a supporter of the WLT in Belgium, brough to my attentions an article about Sir David Attenborough.

I cannot believe that Sir David will be very pleased, and the BBC are currently investigating.