Clean cash and filthy lucre

14th February 2012 by

At Otesha we’ve just been through the fascinating and sometimes difficult process of reviewing and updating our corporate donor screening policy. And we think we’ve now got one of the toughest donor screening policies around.

So what’s one of them, then, eh? Well, as a charity, Otesha depends on grants from foundations and trusts. Not just on those. We’ve also got regular gifts from our fantastic members (what do you mean you’re not a member? You can join here!), money raised from cycle tours, honorariums from schools and festivals where we perform or run workshops, money-raising events organised by our amazing alumni and one-off donations. But at the moment most of our money comes in the form of grants – and sometimes those are from corporate foundations.

The screening policy is there to do a few different (all brilliant) things:

  • Set out what lovely activities and practices we’d really like corporate funders to do – these are the things we’ll look for if we’re ever going out looking for corporate funders
  • Lay down some clear no-no’s that will mean we just cannot, no way Jose, take money from a company
  • Tell the world what we believe in – what our values and principles are
  • Inspire confidence in our staff team, our volunteers and everyone we work with that we try really hard to walk the talk

So what’s changed after our review? Well, I’ve got to say it was already a really strong policy. But we were worried that it might let some companies, particularly financial ones, through the net. That would be ironic, given the strong lead we’ve given in the past – such as when we decided to pull out of Climate Week because it was sponsored by ‘the oil and gasĀ  bank’, RBS. So we’ve got a new clause on banks and other financial companies.

Other things we’ve done include tightening up our wording on labour rights to make it clear that companies should allow workers to organise through unions. We’ve also added a clause saying we won’t accept donations from any company whose business involves sexually objectifying people – men, women or children. And we’ve kept in big red ‘NO’s to the things you’d expect us to turn our noses up at, like nuclear energy, weapons and pollution.

The whole process has been really interesting and useful, because of course it made us all sit down and talk about what our principles are and how it is possible to put them into practice in the messiness of the real world. We wanted to be as true to our values as we possibly could.

Of course, we’re not swashbuckling private detectives who can devote endless time to researching everything that a company has ever done. We’ll do our best. We’ve got a research procedure in place. But we’ll always be looking to improve our policies and the way we enact them. We’d really welcome hearing what you think.


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