When you donate some of your hard-earned Euros to charity, it is natural to presume that they will soon be judiciously applied to where they can do the most good.
You might fondly imagine, for instance, that your kind gift to Greenpeace is going to end up contributing towards the cost of air-lifting polar bears from melting icebergs or, at least, buying some woolly hats for penguins.
Equally, you might presume that giving money to The AIDS Fund would result in a few more condoms finding their way between statistically appropriate genitals. The truth, sadly, may not be quite so emotionally rewarding for generous donors.
An investigation by the national newspaper Algemeen Dagblad has revealed that, far from a steely determination to squeeze every last possible drop of value from each donated cent, many major Dutch charities are blowing fortunes on lavish expenditures that appear to bear little relation to their supposed missions.
For example, in this Internet age, you may presume there is little need for charities to rent impressive offices in premium locations – after all, they are not petrochemical corporations or expensive legal firms. Surely, more than any other type of organization, it is not only acceptable but downright re-assuring for a charity to operate from budget offices in an unglamorous backstreet.
We could go even further and suggest that, in a country with as fast and as reliable a train network as The Netherlands, it would make even more sense for charities to avoid Amsterdam, where the recent overflow from the London property market of money fleeing China, the Middle-East and Russia has resulted in sky-high rents and record property prices.
Why not place their headquarters in one of the country’s many smaller but equally vibrant cities? Surely that would make greater financial sense for the lowly paid but deeply committed people who, we imagine, work for these charities.
As is so often the case, our imaginations are wildly off the mark. The Algemeen Dagblad’s investigation dug up the grubby truth that many of these “non-profits” are sparing no expense when it comes to providing themselves with top-notch office environments, in close proximity to the finest dining and most fashionable night-life that The Netherlands has to offer.
For instance, our polar bear-saving friends in Greenpeace spent €500,000 to acquire and, then, a further €200,000 to refurbish a trendy office on Amsterdam’s IJ waterfront. They are not alone: as you stroll the city’s fashionable canal areas, you will see many other plush offices in converted canal mansions now occupied by charities, including Amnesty and Humans Right Watch.
The rents there, in the historical heart of the city center, are around €200 per square meter, as opposed to €100 per square meter in a perfectly good business district a few miles down the road. A praise-worthy example of such thrift is the charity War Child who pay €93 per square meter for their offices in the Zuidoost district.
Perhaps the most flagrant example is The AIDS Fund who spend €230,000 renting not one but two offices in the canal district, one on the Keizersgracht and one on the Herengracht. It would take an AIDS virus less than seven minutes to cycle between the two offices.
In response to this scandalous and embarrassing situation, local business leaders Wendy and Robert Monroe, the owners of AmsterdamEscape, Amsterdam’s first online vacation rentals company, have launched an emergency outreach program, offering to relocate charities to less ostentatious but far cheaper facilities in Eindhoven.
AmsterdamEscape will then generously convert those beautiful Amsterdam canal offices into comfy tourist apartments, generating a healthy, continuous flow of cash that will fund a unique new project to refurbish and retrain Syrian war children to deliver condoms to the polar bears who need them most.