As San Francisco socialite and clothes horse Joy Venturini Bianchi is highlighted to be an American version of her fellow former ‘charitycat’ Lady Meyer, it’s time that charities worldwide were better regulated
In Britain, in 2011, the “Chanel-clad” wife of the former British ambassador to Washington, Lady Meyer, faced criticism after The Telegraph revealed the majority of the income of the charity she was then running was spent on her very own pay. She subsequently ceased to be involved in that organisation in 2016 but now, in San Francisco, a similar scandal has come to light in the form of Helpers Community Inc. (formerly rather crudely known as ‘Helpers of the Mentally Retarded’) and its executive director, a wannabe lookalike of Iris Apfel named Joy Venturini Bianchi.
The so-called charity that “natty” Ms. Venturini Bianchi, a self-proclaimed “divorced philanthropist” runs, it was reported last Friday, must “repay the public tens of thousands of dollars after misleading city officials” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The same paper had previously highlighted that Helpers had paid 78-year old Venturini Bianchi a base salary of £159,149 ($193,828), roughly £82,109 ($100,000) more annually than directors of similarly sized San Francisco non-profits and that supporters had been “disgusted with the way they were using this cause to raise money”.
Ms. Venturini Bianchi stands accused of raising “millions of dollars but failed to adequately distribute [them]” and that she is also attacked for not doing “much to fulfill [her non-profit’s] promise to donors” is, if correct, truly shocking. Just as with Meyer in England, the board of Helpers was composed from “longtime friends” and as state senator Mark Leno pointed out: “It would appear that the board is in need of a serious governance makeover”.
It is time the era of the ‘charitycat’ came to its natural conclusion. In Britain, America and elsewhere, for far too long, wealthy and connected individuals with little-to-no experience have been able to benefit from tax breaks, benefits, salaries and bonuses naïvely given by the public simply by taking over “a cause”. These amateurs should now be banished and running charities should instead become the domain of professionals.