All UK charities have suddenly found themselves facing the same dilemma: do they take up the offer of free advertising space in the final edition of the News of the World, or do they reject association with the toxic brand?
This is a very unusual situation: there have been cases where individual charities have found their investment decisions or corporate partnerships questioned, but for the first time over 160,000 charities have to decide whether to accept the same offer of corporate support. And they need to make a very quick decision.
James Murdoch said yesterday: "We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend. Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers."
Free coverage in what was Britain's highest selling Sunday newspaper? At a time when many charities are facing funding cuts and tough fundraising conditions? Surely that is not such a difficult decision to make?
But should charities rush in where the likes of O2, Vauxhall Motors, Dixons, Sainsburys and Boots have already withdrawn? The Royal British Legion joined them yesterday by severing its links.
"We can't with any conscience campaign alongside News of the World on behalf of Armed Forces families while it stands accused of preying on these same families in the lowest depths of their misery," said a charity's spokesman.
That is the dilemma facing all UK charities: will they accept donated advertising space from a company, some of whose staff have allegedly abused the privacy of the beneficiaries of so many charities?
Charities, and in particular their trustees, do in fact have the right and duty to consider the potential impact of accepting a particular donation. This morning the Institute of Fundraising reminded its members of this, urging them to to consult its
So, what will charities do with this unprecedented offer of free national newspaper advertising?
They might reject it, following the lead of the Royal British Legion and Beatbullying, resulting in an array of blank pages of integrity, demonstrating that there is such a notion as tainted money.
Or, to take a more positive approach, they might band together and appeal through a single sector umbrella body for donations to a central charity fund for subsequent equal distribution. However, such a fund does not yet exist. In its absence, perhaps the best alternative would be to promote the
launched appeal for East Africa. That would be a good example of collaborative and transparent charity work, although it would of course not benefit the vast majority of UK charities.
So, the most likely result, because the sector is diverse and seldom speaks with one voice, is that the final edition will be full of appeals to its 7 million readers from charities, all of whom strive to make positive change in this world.
While that gives an entirely undeserved fig leaf of respectability to the newspaper in its dying hours, I'll feel some sense of satisfaction that the funds raised will ensure a far more positive legacy than the newspaper or its owners might ever have imagined.
Follow Howard Lake on Twitter: www.twitter.com/howardlake