To fly or not to fly?

Last year’s post on da-boss dissected the concept of fundraising in a social welfare country and included these comments:

Let us take a closer look at what happens when a successful charity collects significant funds to fight, say, glue ear in early primary kids. (…) Well – the ensurer of the minimum material standards (a socialist state) is under less pressure to pay for the mop-up operation (…) So, the money already budgeted to fight glue ear can now be used to address another pressing social need. (…) The social service which got boosted by extra funding is not the cause that they [donors] have donated for.

Was da-boss too harsh in this bitter assessment of the futility of fundraising in a socialist environment? Is there any proof that this is what happens in real life? The recent spat between the Westpac Helicopter Trust and Auckland Council should give us some food for thought:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/aucklander/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503378&objectid=11206688

The Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust is challenging plans by a council-funded body to slash its grant by $750,000 over two years. The council and the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board are standing firm, saying the helicopter service has been incredibly successful at fundraising, is in an “exceptionally sound financial position” and services have not suffered as a result of the cuts. Funding board chairman Vern Walsh yesterday acknowledged the case was a “huge waste of ratepayers’ money” and would prefer it if the money was allocated among 10 regional amenities, including four arts organisations, northern region coastguard and surf life saving, Watersafe Auckland, Stardome, Maritime Museum and the helicopter service.

So let us recap the sequence of events in this particular dispute. Auckland Council felt it was its duty to ensure that the residents had access to a helicopter lift in case of emergency. Consequently, it allocated some funds from its budget to maintain the emergency helicopter rescue service. The trust established to run the operation also managed to secure the funding from sponsors like Westpac Bank and ran successful fundraising using professional fundraising companies. When Auckland Council realised the Trust was doing ok financially it decided to cut back its funding. This has irked the Trust which took the Council to court. Their legal argument will no doubt be that the Trust should not be penalised for being financially savy and running surpluses. The Council’s PR stance is that, rather than on legal wranglings, the money would be better spent on other community projects.

So, as you see, the issue is exactly as described in my old post. There will be only two winners of this dispute – the professional companies running the fundraising campaigns for the Trust and the lawyers. Those who donated with an idea of supporting the helicopter rescue operation will find that the organisations ultimately benefitting from their generosity will be the ones which, in the Council’s opinion, require a funding boost. Just as da-boss predicted…

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