The International Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies is one of the biggest charities in the world. It has 122 million members, spends 9.4bn annually on operations and services and employs 284,240 people worldwide.
From the Sudan to Rwanda and the Balkans, it has been on hand to offer food and aid.
And yet it is about to embark on a fundraising scheme that could be just as dangerous, at least to its reputation, as any of its international aid ventures. To raise over $1bn (610m) it is backing a worldwide lottery draw, Millions 2000, promoted and co-ordinated via the Internet.
Marketing Week has discovered that it is illegal to promote this lottery in the UK and possibly other countries, although GGT London has been hired to handle a claimed 30m global ad campaign for the scheme. It falls foul of the 1976 Lotteries & Amusements Act, preventing the promotion of foreign lotteries in the UK. Despite Red Cross lobbying, the Home Office is refusing exemption.
The incident highlights the growing dependence of charities on lottery and gambling money. The Directory of Social Change, a voluntary sector research body, will warn later this week that charities may ‘damage the good name and hence the fundraising capacity of charities as a whole’ through their reliance on gambling.
And yet many have no choice.
In the UK some smaller charities could not function without the 800m now pumped into them via the National Lottery. The Gaming Board report for 1996/97 shows that charity and society lotteries had a turnover of 115m in the period, providing some 45m of funds for good causes – up 46 per cent on the previous year.
The signs are this income will leap again this year, with Littlewoods’ launch of the Diana scratchcard and the Pronto! pub lottery game, which the Home Office wants to outlaw.
A group of 65 charities, including Mencap and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, are campaigning for Pronto! to be allowed to operate because it may raise as much as 100m annually for UK charities. Others argue that the trend to employ gambling as a fundraising technique merely reflects what is going on in society.
But GamCare, a charity promoting responsible gambling, believes its peers are subsuming the concerns about gambling to raise money as donations fall.
UK charities raise an estimated 4bn annually from all sources including Government. In that context the amount raised from gambling may seem small but the combined figure for the National Lottery and private lotteries is now approaching 900m per year.
From the very big to the very small, there is a growing addiction to gambling in the UK – among charities.
See Cover Story, page 28; News story, page 11