By Tom Anderson & Therezia Cooper
Stewardship Services is a UK registered charity which “receives donations from individuals and organisations to be passed to third party charities and charitable projects as requested by the donor.” Corporate Watch has sent a series of open letters to Stewardship making it aware that in our opinion its collection of donations for a project in a settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories make it complicit in settlement expansion.
Stewardship collects donations for a project run by Christian Friends of Israeli Communities Heartland (CFOIC) in Kochav Yaakov. CFOIC, which is not a UK registered charity, was set up in response to the Oslo Accords to support Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Stewardship states that these donations are solely for a CFOIC project providing hot lunches to children in the settlement. However, we maintain that to support CFOIC is to give tacit support to Israel’s colonisation policies.
On the 16th of August 2013 Stewardship Services issued a press release with the title “In response to queries concerning Christian Friends of Israeli Communities Heartland”. The press release related to concerns raised in Corporate Watch’s open letter to Stewardship Services regarding its involvement with CFOIC. Stewardship’s press release was not sent to Corporate Watch, but to others who contacted the charity after reading the article, and was published on the Stewardship Services website.
Stewardship states that it “is a non-political charitable organisation with the sole intention of offering support to generous donors who seek to address suffering and poverty throughout the world”. Corporate Watch has previously published a public response to Stewardship’s claim that collecting money on behalf of CFOIC is non-political and so we will not go in to that any further here. However, there are a few more questions arising out of the press release which Corporate Watch would be grateful if Stewardship would provide answers to.
Again, we call on Stewardship Services to end its relationship with CFOIC. If you are concerned about the way in which Stewardship willingly facilitates the funding of this project in an Israeli settlement why not write a complaint.
An Open Letter in response to Stewardship Services’ press release of 16th August 2013
Dear Stewardship Services,
Thank you for providing more detailed information regarding your relationship with Christian Friends of Israeli Communities Heartland. However, your press release raises a few more questions.
“In 2007 Stewardship was asked to register Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) to its database by a donor. Consistent with its usual policies, Stewardship carried out extensive due diligence into CFOIC.
It made the responsible and reasonable decision, not least to ensure that funds were used solely for purposes that would be regarded as charitable activities under UK charity law, to limit funds provided to CFIOC [sic] so that they are used exclusively for the alleviation of poverty. Currently, donations made to CFOIC are allotted to a specific project that provides hot lunches to poor children, a proper use of charitable funds that Stewardship is pleased to allow some of its donors to support .”
“Why does the Stewardship gift form for making donations to CFOIC not mention that the money received will be used in the settlement of Kochav Yaakov? Will all donors be aware that this is the case? Why did the press release exclude the information that the CFOIC donations are indeed used in a settlement?
You say that Stewardship felt it necessary to put some restrictions on how donations to CFOIC are spent, does that mean that the charity is not supportive of the other projects run by CFOIC?
Since CFOIC was added to its database , the average annual grant payment to CFIOC [sic], at the request of donors, is around £3 ,000 a year (or 0.00 6% of our grants).
The Kochav Yaakov project page on CFOIC’s website states that the project budget for the hot lunch program for children is $32,430 annually. The page also asks for donations from American and world wide donors. Is Stewardship kept informed by CFOIC about the total funds collected elsewhere for this project every year? If so, what happens when the target is reached?
When World Action Ministries (WAM), CFOIC’s previous partner, dropped its relationship with CFOIC, WAM’s administrator told Corporate Watch that:
“Our accountant pointed out to us that we had no control over how any of the donations made were actually used. Receiving no assurances from CFOIC as to how the money would be spent made us immediately very wary and we started the process of severing our relationship with them.”
What control does Stewardship have over how donations to CFOIC made via the Stewardship website are used? What steps, if any, does Stewardship take to ensure that donations are made as per Stewardship’s stipulations?
Furthermore, we have not received any reply to the questions that we asked in our open letter of 14 August.
We ask again:
Are you aware of the European Council decision of 16 June 2005 which calls for ‘the abolition of financial and tax incentives and direct and indirect subsidies, and the withdrawal of exemptions benefiting the settlements and their inhabitants’? According to recent questions posed in the House of Commons the Charity Commission is aware of the European Council declaration.
How much tax relief via Gift Aid has been received on donations for Christian Friends of Israeli Communities since Stewardship started to collect money for the organisation?
Corporate Watch would like to clearly state that the objection being raised is not in any way concerning Stewardship’s general aim to, in its own words, “address suffering and poverty throughout the world”. It is solely about the charity’s involvement with CFOIC, an organisation which, by its own admission, was set up to support Israeli settlements.
Corporate Watch remains hopeful that Stewardship will think deeply about these questions and reconsider its relationship with CFOIC.
We would greatly appreciate a response to the questions posted above.