Meet Myles Edwards.
The latest advert from Bank of Scotland follows Myles as he retrieves loose change from his washing machine, the back of the sofa and the pavement, carefully secreting his haul in a giant whisky bottle. The bank suggests an electronic version of the same idea, using loose change in one's bank account to accumulate a few quid over the years. Nothing like the £1.5 million bonus just awarded to Antonio Horta Osorio, chief exec of this 42% state-owned, errant, loss-making banking group, you understand, but a tidy sum nevertheless.
What I find mildly offensive about this advert is less the odious contrast between parsimonious Myles and Lloyds Banking Group's free spending senior management, than the way it props up the stereotype of the dour, tight-fisted, whinging Scot. And to flog this timeworn cliche still further, Myles is, of course, an Aberdonian.
If this bank has any remaining pretensions to Scottishness, it should know that this caricature is a travesty. Last summer a survey about tipping discovered that residents of Glasgow and Edinburgh are twice as likely to tip a taxi driver than the average Brit. And, yesterday, in a revelation that bodes well for Scotland's contribution to Red Nose Day tomorrow, a report from the think tank NPC finds Scots give on average £1 a day (£356 per annum), while the UK average is just £303.
Nevertheless the picture in the charitable sector is bleak. The latest round-up by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) shows small and medium-sized charities bearing the brunt of funding cuts, low interest rates and the tough fundraising climate. According to director Martin Sime, a majority of them are spending more than they raise. Clearly we can't carry on like this when cuts in public services and welfare are leaving Scotland's third sector to pick up the pieces.
The new report, Money for Good UK, part funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, suggests there is much untapped potential. It calculates that if British charities learn from its research, they could net an extra £1.7 billion a year. (Total giving last year was £9.3bn.)
For an idea of just how well off many Brits are, look at the thousands pouring into Geneva Airport every Saturday for a week of fun and frolics in the French Alps, an eye-wateringly expensive experience. Though many haven't had a decent pay rise for years, they have won out in other ways, such as negligible payments on tracker mortgages and decent stock market returns. Many have index-linked pensions. A few years ago SCVO suggested a blueprint to double charitable giving that included individuals giving away 1.5% of their annual income. No chance.
Today's report shows fewer than half of donors think people should "give money to charity if they can afford to" and in Scotland, high earners give less than the national average. Compared with the US, there is simply not a culture of giving. Those on high incomes are more likely to cite distrust of charities and concerns about waste and administrative costs.
There is nothing inevitable about this. I've been dealing this week with the ruffled feathers of a generous donor whom I recruited to a programme offering education to bright young women in Kenya. It's a brilliant project but a clumsy email from a poorly trained staff member left this lady confused and unsure whether her donations were getting through. As survey material in the NPC report demonstrates, donors need to know how their cash is being used and, vitally, the difference it is making. Elaborate thank yous and fancy tax breaks are way down the list.
Three decades ago the director of social work for Strathclyde Regional Council told me we should be proud to live in a country where you no longer need to rattle cans to pay for welfare rights advice or child protection. If only that were true today. I long for a world where charity becomes unnecessary but until then charities struggling to do more with less need to address better the underlying motivation of potential donors.
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