The Charity Sleuths

What the Intelligent Giving researchers are uncovering, and whose turn it is to make the tea

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Donkey Sanctuary

In our quest to unearth the truth about how charities work, we’ve been tracking down rumours doing the rounds. And one of the most enduring of these is about The Donkey Sanctuary.

The Donkey Sanctuary is big: it spent over £13m last year. It looks after a lot of donkeys in Britain, and has ambitious plans for expansion overseas. First impressions are, it is well-run.

But closer inspection reveals that - as the rumours insist - it's sitting on a massive pot of money. When we opened up the Sanctuary’s annual report we discovered that they had over £38m (no, really) in the bank.

This might not have worried us if it they had concrete ideas of how this money was going to be spent – but apparently they didn’t (ie it wasn't designated for a particular purpose). As far as we knew, they were saving up for a donkey health spa, or an extra-large donkey Christmas party. They could spend this money any way they liked, and, as potential donors, that worried us.

So we went to a quiet place and took another look at the report. After some head-scratching, we discovered that they were, inexplicably, counting everything they owned as part of the cash they had to spend. If this sounds strange, you’d be right: it’s like protesting to your bank that they weren’t counting the value of your house in the balance of your current account.

What was the Sanctuary playing at? We rang their finance director, John Carroll, to find out.

Refreshingly, John admitted there was a problem with how they were doing things at the moment, and told us that next year’s annual report would be a lot clearer, even going so far as to tell us what they were going to spend on specific projects.

This is great news. So the Donkey Sanctuary is not a fat-cat charity, after your money to enrich itself. Rumour quashed.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You got to be joking, have you checked the earlier accounts whereby the founder was paid a lot of money, and her son, is now in charge, and paid a large ammounbt of money.. They are now in Spain ti ship donkeys back to the UK, to ensure there are enough donkeys to continue their income stream. Did you not see that they have over £2 million, yes £2 Million on their balance sheets for cars, and Paul Svenson is driving a car worth a large ammount of money in Spain. Have you also missed the fact that the senior staff have a non contributory pension scheme. Their new project in Spain is not itimised in their accounts, just shown as a local project. Why does Paul Svenson drive a Spanish Registered car worth over 150,000 Euros ? Why do they also show £80,000 worth of grant to a spanish charity called SEPE, when they say they never received such grants.. email them via thier website at and ask them for details.

7:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds absolutely scandalous - why don't you post this stuff on the Intelligent Giving site so the rest of the world can find out about this? The boss of the Sanctuary seems in particular like he's onto an extremely good thing...

1:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some facts rather then fiction may be useful at this stage, The Donkey Sanctuary is currently being run by the Deputy CEO as the current CEO and founder Dr suffered a stroke in 2006. The CEO’s job is to be advertised soon and a new CEO appointed in early 2007. No donkeys from Spain have been shipped back to the UK. One hundred and twenty seven are currently cared for at the refuge in Fuente de Piedra. Paul Svendsen does not have a company car nor is he the CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary. I am sure he wishes his current private vehicle were worth 150,000. The charity in Spain is called El Refugio Del Burrito and is a registered association. The accounts are audited in Spain and will be incorporated into the Donkey Sanctuary Accounts in 2007/8 when it becomes a branch. The Donkey Sanctuary worked with SEPE when they were looking into starting a project in Spain, SEPE charged The Donkey Sanctuary a fee for their services. SEPE were not happy when DS decided it would start a project in Spain. SEPE were invited to be involved with a joint project that would have benefited both donkeys’ mules and horses but turned down the invitation. The Donkey Sanctuary is completely open to scrutiny and anyone can go to see the operations in the UK or Spain to see how resources are used. For more information look on their website or

1:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Chief Executive's post was advertised today (14 January 2007)
in the Sunday Times "£90,000 plus generous benefits"

5:37 pm  
Blogger Ranjeet Phalke said...

Hi there,
Well someone should come to Gwalior India and see how the funds are used for donkeys in india

5:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I am sure in India, but they are still fat cats in the UK, New accounts out show they plan to spend £678,000 on company cars this year alone and give India £30,000 !!!!. see their accounts at UK charity commission on line accounts via their web.

9:29 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to set the records straight in Spain.
Why SEPE first fell out with the Donkey Sanctuary as Paul Svendson well knows, he was asked to leave the Malaga sanctuary due to taking a healthy donkey off some ones land and took it to SEPE’s refuge without any permission and the police got involved when the owner reported it! Although SEPE was able to smooth things over with the donkey’s owner without being prosecuted it could not allow its license to be put in jeopardy by such behavior. Also SEPE does not donate or purchase to acquire equines for marketing purposes so there was obvious big difference between the two charities.
SEPE originally took on a field officer for the Donkey Sanctuary when they were approached to help, as the Donkey Sanctuary was paying a worker in Spain illegally as they did not have a charity license. When the Donkey Sanctuary eventually set up their own Spanish charity SEPE was left to pay the field officer off, this naturally incensed SEPE’s supporters! This appears especially despicable when you consider the obscene amount of money the Donkey Sanctuary sits on. SEPE were shocked to see that the Donkey Sanctuary had not given any explanation within their accounts for the running cost of their field officer, who was partly working on setting up their own sanctuary! Just putting it down as grant to SEPE! SEPE’s complaint was that the Donkey Sanctuary misled both sets of supporters by this and wrote to their trustees, accountant and auditors to rectify this but nothing was altered within there next years accounts to correct the situation. That is why an official complaint is being brought before the charity commission.

5:11 am  
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11:47 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will never give to large charities whose CEOs make ridiculous amounts of money for a couple of days work a week. If they were so committed to the Charity they would just take expenses.
I run a local Charity and no one in it gets paid, these large charities could learn a lot from us.
Even the stars that do the adverts for them get large amounts, I could sound so concerned for a charity that paid me so much.
They are all rip off merchants

2:14 pm  

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