Thursday, August 02, 2007

A lasting legacy

The baby milk campaign succeeds because of the time, effort and support given by so many people. People spreading the word, writing letters, reporting malpractice to us and the authorities and contributing to the funding of the campaign. The campaign does need funding for resources and paid staff - three of us at Baby Milk Action, plus our book keeper - but even then, when funding is tight paid hours are cut until the cashflow improves.

All of this is motivated by a sense of injustice as powerful companies abuse their power and politicians, policy makers and authorities fail in their duty to hold them to account. It is motivated by the knowledge that so many lives can be saved so easily, by providing the protection, promotion and support for breastfeeding that is promised in internationally agreed standards and conventions and by improving the quality and labelling of formula for those that use it.

We see the campaign working. Exposing and targeting malpractice stops some of it and forces grudging changes in policy. An increasing number of countries have legislation and where this is enforced we see violations stopped. Coupled with other measures to support and promote breastfeeding, we see breastfeeding rates increase. For an example, see:

Those who have given something to the campaign, however small or large an action or amount of money it may be, have contributed to this legacy of protection. Lives saved and suffering prevented. There are people alive today who would have died pitiful deaths from diarrhoea and malnutrition or other illness or had their development compromised if it was not for this support.

An irony of the baby milk campaign is the following.

The more baby food companies undermine breastfeeding, the more money they make.

The more we protect mothers and infants, the harder it is for us to raise funds.

If we had a pound for every life saved so far, then we would have no problems with funding the work to stop the unnecessary death and suffering that continues.

I'm prompted to write about this today after receiving an email from a charitable trust that gave us a very welcome grant last year. Though it was described as 'one off' we were hoping there may be chance of another. Unfortunately the message we received was as follows:

"We were pleased with the report and the work you are doing, but unfortunately cannot consider a further application for funding. I am sorry to disappoint you, but wish you every success in finding the funding you need for the important work you are doing."

Too many good projects are chasing too little money and charitable trusts may move on for a variety of reasons.

But the fact remains, funds are needed for essential costs and funders wishing us success does not pay the bills. Time spent on identifying and approaching possible new funders - and meeting their different requirements for applications - is time diverted from other work.

It is the same for every organisation. Partners have folded as they have been unable to replace lost funding. Even some of the agencies that fund us experience cashflow problems which may mean cuts in their staffing and expenditure and impact on grants for our work.

Over half of our income comes from membership, donations and merchandise sales. Many of them through our on-line Virtual Shop. This contributes to all areas of our work and is vital for those for which we receive no grant funding at present, such as promoting the Nestlé boycott and campaigning on the UK situation.

Last year a long-time supporter remembered us in her will for which we are very grateful. This legacy has provided an important reserve for the times when funders send us best wishes for our fundraising efforts, rather than a contract and a cheque.

In the UK, a consortium of charities have put together a campaign and website to give people information on how to leave a legacy. We are not listed on the website as we are a not-for-profit organisation, rather than a charity, because charity laws could restrict some of our activities in influencing policy makers and legislation. But the principles of leaving a legacy to Baby Milk Action are the same. Should you wish to consider it you can find information at:

We don't have a pound for every life saved. But we do have support from people like you, which is why we are able to keep going.

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