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Intelligent Giving: SOS Children's response


Intelligent Giving have given us a list of questions on transparency. Here are our answers!

  1. Clear explanation of benefit of year’s activities to user - The direct beneficiaries of our work are orphans, vulnerable children and children at risk who we help to lead a full life. We (our local affiliates) work in 123 countries around the world, run 450 SOS villages and 342 youth homes, care for more than 60,000 children, provide an education in our nurseries, primary and secondary schools to over 100,000 children and support over 1 million vulnerable children and their families through medical centres, social centres, vocational training schemes and emergency relief efforts. Indirect beneficiaries of our work include the extended families of the children that we help and society in general.

  2. Clear description of achievements for the year - Our twin UK key aims for 2005 were to increase the number of child and village sponsors in the year (which grew by 25% to 2,900) and to reduce the percentage of income spent on administration and overheads (which fell by 14% in the year).

  3. Stated purpose easy to find in annual report/review - Our Annual Report describes how we look to care for children and young people by setting up and maintaining SOS villages and educate and train the children in our care. Our aim is to continue promoting and developing this activity. Specifically - as mentioned on our website - we exist to provide loving homes, stable relationships and a future for children with no-one else.

  4. The activities match the stated purpose - Yes, each year the majority of our donations come from individual supporters, many of whom sponsor our children and villages meaning that we can continue to provide long-term care for vulnerable children.

  5. Accounts delivered to Charity Commission on time - Yes, the last five accounts were delivered to the Charity Commission on time.

  6. Clear explanation of grant-making policies - We only make grants to member associations of SOS Children's Villages International to projects which have been agreed, price/benefit ranked and audited by the international body. In general such grants are directly discussed and agreed with donors.

  7. Explanation of the charity’s policy on reserves - Our restricted reserves are erratic because funds are generally received from donors for a purpose but only released to third party contractors in the developing world in stages as construction is completed. We maintain a level of unrestricted reserves adequate to cover not only our ongoing trade debt but also our commitments to projects overseas.

  8. Comment on financial health - The overall health of SOS Children UK is very satisfactory. Income in 2005 was the highest in the charity’s history (£3.3 million - the previous highest income was £1.6 million in 2002) largely generated from a single individual major donation as well as a 22% increase in regular donations (when comparing with 2004).

  9. Disclosure of trustee remuneration - No trustees are remunerated.

  10. Disclosure of relationships with other parties - SOS Children UK is a member of SOS Children's Villages International, which has member associations in 131 countries. SOS Children UK basically exists to promote and support, within the UK, the worldwide work of SOS Children’s Villages.

  11. Clear disclosure of future expenditure plans - Put simply, we want to raise more funds that we can pass on directly to our projects. We recently raised funds for the first fully UK-financed village in Basse, The Gambia, and we would like to be in a position where we can support the development of new projects around the world and to build new villages where the need is great. We believe that our money makes a real difference - funds raised in the West can go much further in the poor and developing countries.

  12. Clear explanation of this year’s risks and risk management - The risks to the charity - specifically the major strategic, business and operational risks - are examined by the Board of Trustees, all of whom are confident that systems have been established and reporting mechanisms are in place to have minimised the risks to SOS Children. There are no perceived threats to the existence or development of the charity.

  13. Staff numbers, roles and salaries - Currently (as at April 2007) we have twelve full time staff and two part time staff. Their roles are: Chief Executive, Finance Director, Fundraising Director, Sponsorship Secretary, Database Manager (part-time), Data Entry Assistant (one-off donations), Data Entry Assistant (Regular donations), Information Manager (part-time), Individual Supporters Manager, Web Assistant, Campaigns, PR & Project Manager, Community Fundraising Co-ordinator, School Liaison and Regional Volunteer Co-ordinator, Trusts & Foundations and Projects Officer. Our salary bands are Under £15,000 (3 staff); £15,000 - £25,000 (6 staff); £25,000 - £40,000 (4 staff), £40,000 - £60,000 (1 staff).

  14. Comment on major sources of income/expenditure - Most of our income comes from our individual supporters, many of whom commit to give regularly to our work through direct debits or other similar methods - much of this support is through supporting individual children or villages. All sponsorship contributions are sent without deduction to the particular SOS Children’s Village. Increasingly we are developing new income sources from companies (such as the HSBC Global Education Trust, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers and Hogg Robinson), but our work is attracting the interest of high net-worth individuals and philanthropists.

    We could always do with more support, particularly to assist with our outreach programmes in AIDS affected areas. Most of our expenditure each year relates to passing on the funds raised directly - without deduction - to our projects, the rest goes on informing our supporters and potential supporters about our work.

  15. Explanation of the charity’s investment policy* - In general we do not make investments and keep funds on deposit at the bank.

  16. Comment on performance of investments* - Bank deposits are generally held in high interest-earning deposit accounts.

  17. Clear description of plans for at least two years - In terms of UK fundraising, our plans for the next three years are simple: we plan to continue to grow our regular giving donor base by 30% a year, and exploit warm contacts and approaches in community fundraising, trusts foundations and major donors in a professional manner. We do not plan any cold mailing, cold telephone approaches or face to face recruitment. We do not wish our UK administration costs to grow beyond the current levels and will seek efficiency improvements to cover extra activity.

    In terms of overseas projects, we aim to sponsor an additional 1500 children in 2007, 2000 in 2008 and 2500 in 2009. We are trying to improve funding in the former Soviet Union particularly where we see a number of much smaller players getting a disproportionate “share of voice” in the UK market.

  18. Comment on achievement of reserves and action to be taken* - In some respect our restricted reserves are too high and our unrestricted reserves are too low, though neither is giving us cause for concern. Our restricted reserves are mainly being retained for capital project costs (e.g. development of a new village in The Gambia, construction of houses in the tsunami region, extension to a school in India), which will be called off when the funds are required. Most restricted donations for specific projects or equipment are forwarded on receipt without any deduction for administration. Our unrestricted reserves are expected to return to a healthy positive balance in 2007 on the back of higher Gift Aid tax reclaims on the donations currently being received.

  19. Comment on the contribution of volunteers* - We have around ten office volunteers who between them contribute the equivalent of one or two full time members of staff. This helps keep admin costs low. We also have a network of regional volunteers and other volunteer fundraisers (for example running supporters groups).

  20. Disclosure of economic value of volunteers* - We estimate total fundraising and office value of volunteers as £250k a year.

  21. Clear comment on property assets* - SOS Children rents its office premises at a low commercial rent and own a small amount of office equipment. We also own a piece of donated land which is leased for farming use. The combined book value of our tangible assets (land and office equipment) in 2005 was £45,000.

  22. FAQ on website covering donors' concerns - Yes: SOS Children Frequently Asked Questions

  23. Clear explanation of what done to achieve stated purpose - Our primary focus has been to revamp and continually develop our Internet site (which began three years ago) and find ways of attracting people to our website - this can be through high Search Engine rankings as well as bringing people onto our site through news links and an interest in obtaining a free, edited copy of the Wikipedia CD that we have produced.

    This increased interest has led to a higher volume of donations and committed giving - as well as spin-off benefits from people who wish to do challenge events, or persuade their companies to support our work or visit our projects to see for themselves what we do. All this increased interest and support is helping us care for more children and young adults.

  24. Clear explanation of how achievements compare to plans - For the last two years, income and growth in committed giving have exceeded plans while office costs have been below plan. The main reason for this has been the astonishing success of our internet site which continues to raise funds at a cost level of around 1p in the pound and has allowed us to reduce mailing and other costs while increasing income. In addition, securing an income of $1m a year for five years from HSBC was above our expectations and we have had several major donations which have lifted figures above expectation.

  25. Stated purpose clear & digestible to average reader - We hope so - our purpose is to provide loving homes, stable relationships and a future for children with no-one else - as simple as that.

  26. Targets and indicators against which success measured - We measure our success in the field on complicated indicators including total numbers of children helped, number of children who remain in a family as a result of our work and outcomes studies of children who grow up in our care. We measure success in fundraising on total regular income (direct debits plus standing orders), total income, percentage of total income used in fundraising, advocacy and admin (advocacy is a charitable end but basically indistinguishable from fundraising and is included in our “FAAF”).

  27. List of trustees at year end and who served in year - The list of trustees at the year end and who served in the year is included in the Annual accounts.

    For 2005 this was Mary Cockcroft (Chairman), Michael Riding (Vice Chairman), Michael Brewer, Lady Chadwyck-Healey, David Clifford, Ulf Larsen, Earl of St Andrews and Peter Völker.

  28. Clear explanation of how trustees are appointed - New trustees are sought to replace resigning trustees and are usually approached to obtain an indication of their willingness to serve. Potential new trustees are then interviewed by two existing trustees who report back to the Board with their recommendations. The Board actively seeks to ensure that they encompass a broad diversity of skills and background.

  29. Clear disclosure of future income streams - Our main income stream will continue to be our individual supporters, who will carry on providing a strong platform for our work. We are looking to increase our number of supporters not through expensive TV advertising or cold mail recruitment campaigns, but rather to attract people who are looking to support a charity that cares for children - mainly via Internet searches. So we are looking to consolidate and grow our presence on the web which is currently yielding around a 20% growth rate. This awareness growth typically yields additional spin-off benefits as more companies and major donors learn about our work.

  30. Accounts late this year? - No - the accounts were received by the Charities Commission on 12th October 2006.

  31. Website contains latest annual report - Yes, a PDF of our latest Annual Review is downloadable from our website:

  32. Explanation of any funds in deficit* - An explanation of the unrestricted charitable funds deficit was included in our 2005 audited accounts. In brief, from April 2002 to March 2004 SOS UK undertook a programme of long term strategic development, which was designed to explore ways of achieving substantial growth of the charity to support its worldwide work. This also included investment in fundraising campaigns, which would require a long payback period, together with a re-structuring of the charity and was supported financially by our sister organisation, SOS Norway, in the form of an interest-free loan.

    This was to be re-paid to SOS Norway through funding SOS projects of which SOS Norway is the principle funder. Accounting treatment required us to show the income from SOS Norway as a creditor and this loan was fully repaid in 2006.

  33. Comment on fundraising effectiveness - We’re getting better. Up until five years ago, we, like other charities, were focusing on attracting new donors through cold-mail marketing campaigns but this approach has become saturated and we were unable to create a unique position in the market. So instead we tried to provide better signposts to people who were actively interested in helping orphaned or abandoned children, mainly by improving our Search Engine ranking within the major Internet search engines. This has the added bonus that the recruitment costs are very low - and helps reassure donors that we’re not wasting money on fundraising or administration costs.

  34. Trustees' Report is easily understandable - We hope so. The Trustees’ Report in the Accounts covers the aims and objectives, a review of the year, policies on reserves and risk management and plans for the future. We welcome questions on our work - we do get many enquiries about what we do and we always try to help people understand more about our work.

  35. Adequate explanation of unusual income/expenditure* - The only unusual item of income in 2005 was a major individual donation to fund a new SOS Children’s Village in The Gambia - these funds have been called off in 2005 and 2006 with the village due to open towards the end of 2007. Otherwise the income figures have broadly grown in line with our expectations and our expenditure levels have remained low - resulting in a better income to expenditure ratio.

  36. Information about existing subsidiary companies* - SOS Children’s Villages wholly owns a trading subsidiary which ceased trading on 31st December 2001 and has remained dormant since that date. We have no plans to resurrect the trading company.

  37. Accounts late at least once in previous three years? - No.

  38. The stated purpose focuses on outcomes, not output - We want to improve children’s lives - our stated purpose is to provide loving homes, stable relationships and a future for children with no-one else.

  39. Annual report is easy to find on the website - There is a search facility on the home page - if you type in Annual Report, this is the first item listed.

  40. Clear description of organisational structure - Our charity, headed up by our Chief Executive is split into two functions - a Fundraising group (currently seven staff) which looks after distinct areas (Major donors & companies (and Section leader); Trusts; Celebrities; Community Groups; Individual Supporters; Schools & Regions; Website) and an Office team (currently six people - two are part time) who are responsible for our Sponsors, Database, Finance (Section leader), One-off Donations, Regular Donations and Information.

  41. Fundraising and income-generating graphs presented - There is one graph in the Annual Review showing that 86 pence from every pound was used to support projects and provide sponsorship to children and villages.

  42. Disclosure of performance on income targets - In 2006, we beat our ambitious income budget by 5%, in 2005 (thanks to a large one-off donation) we beat it by 61%. In 2004 we were 27% down on budget, though our actual income was 9% up on 2003’s figures.

  43. Disclosure of problems - Last year, our website had a total of 19 hours downtime but was otherwise available to provide information about our work and a forum to accept help.

    One by-product of a growing Internet footprint is an increase in fraudulent direct debit and credit card donations as well as a higher number of bogus and phishing emails. Two of our trustees’ names have recently been used by email scammers trying to defraud people through fake recruitment opportunities.

    In 2005, we also received many calls and emails relating to a bogus charity with a similar sounding name arranging door-to-door clothing collections.

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