I visited St Thomas’ Hospital on Monday, to discuss fundraising for a cardiology research project. On the way in, I spotted an acquaintance taking her little boy for tests; she was busy explaining why the doctors needed to do what they were about to do, so I didn’t interrupt. I also spotted a block on the map labelled ‘future site of Evelina Children’s Hospital’, and my thoughts turned to the £650,000 pledged for Evelina at the Presidents Club dinner: £400,000 of it in an auction bid from the restaurant tycoon Richard Caring to secure naming rights on a high-dependency unit.
In the furore over the all-male club’s treatment of female hostesses, the money was turned away by Evelina’s parent charity, in line with Great Ormond Street Hospital’s announcement that it would return £530,000 donated at this and previous club events. So I tried out on the fundraising professional with me the line taken by Ross Clark and others — that the charities should just take the money and cure sick children with it, rather than leaping on the bandwagon of outrage. ‘Pecunia non olet’ (money has no smell) was the way that wily dog Lord Goodman put it in the early 1980s while persuading fastidious theatre folk to accept tobacco sponsorship for want of state subsidy.
But my colleague was vehement: ‘It really isn’t about virtue-signalling, it’s a pragmatic choice about not tainting your charity brand. If we’re seen taking that sort of money in the current climate, so many other people will stop giving to us.’ She’s probably right. Those Presidents Club pledges should be torn up, and the donors behind them should wait a while, then quietly send cheques for the same sums to the same charities with a Gift Aid form and a note saying ‘no publicity’.
It was the format of the event that was offensive, not (as leftists clearly think) the fact that a gaggle of rich men were doing the giving.