Voting Charities:

Thet in the opinion of Council, the system of periodical contested elections by the whole body of subscribers is open much objection in its application to hospitals and orphanages, and that it would be more conductive to the object of such institutions if the selection of the persons to be nebefited were made, after full unvestigation od comparative claimes, by a Committee elected according to such conditions as would secure a real representaion of subscribers [8 May 1872; SW 371].

[M 61-62]:
A defect of many charitable societies was that they were 'voting charities'. Subscribers received a certain number of votes by which poor persons in need could be nominated to receive help from the society. This lead to a unfortunate and often heartbreaking canvassing for 'letters' (for more than one vote might be needed) by the person needing help; the houses of well-to-do people had to be visited, entailing long journeys on foot and the resolution to overcome the rudeness of servantes and the interrogation supercilliousness of the philanthropist whose help was sought. Even then, applicants might be voted on in a meeting of the society, in which 'election', which were successful, to get a letter admitting her to a hospital for her confinement, are sympatherically described in George Moore's novel, and reminds us of this unnecessary obstacle to the operation of charity.

[Trevelyan] moved the Council to take a stand aainst the system in 1872, and a meeting of representatives of voting charities was called by the Lord Mayoy in 1873. The COS position was that elections were undersirable since what was needed was the careful investigation of all persons who applied for help. Resolutions and a paper were sent to the principal voluntary societies. For this early action the COS encountered a good deal of criticism.---the beginning of its persistent unpopularity. It was charged with wanting to get the patoronage of the charitable societies into its own hands. The system of voting charities gradually died away.

Beveridge 1948, 145-146:

Voting charities are now rare, but ware at one time common. During the earlier part of the nineteenth century a number of philanthropic institutions --- orphanages, almshouses, homes for incurables and so on --- adopted the practice of making admission to them dependent upon an election, in which subscriptions and donations gave voting rights. This was both a means of deciding between candidates --- when as was common there more candidates than places to be filled --- and a means of encouraging subscriptions. The Charity Organisation Sociaty in 1872 launched a campaign against this procedure, which was taken up by a Charity Voting Reform Association, formed a year or two later. The eunquiries of this reform association showed some truly remarkable results from the application of electoral methods to the administration of charity.

For a popular institution with a large body of subscribers, canvassing for votes might reach formidable proportions. One philanthropic lady described how she had spent six years getting another old lady into a home, sending out in one year 10,000 letters, with reply paid envelopes at a cost approaching 100 pound: "during the six years I was canvassing I spent so much money ... that at last in desperation my husband bought 50 pound votes and assured the election, but it would have been cheaper to us to have allowed her a small annuity from the beginning."

There might be exchange of votes, illustrated by the following advertisement from The Times of May 10, 1872.

TWENTY EIGHT VOTES for the ensuing ELECTION of the ROYAL MEDICAL BENEVOLENT COLLEGE, Epsom, would gradly be EXCHANGED for ROYAL INCURABLE, Address, E.H., Post Office, Carshalton, Surrey.

As the reporter of this observed, "The quotations of the relative value of 'Royal Incurables' and 'Royal Benevolents' would be a curiosity".

There might be still more elaborate election deals. Thus the friends of one Emily Chitty made eleven unsuccessful attempts in five and a half years to get her voted into a home. After the eleventh failure they thought of a better plan. "An effort is now to be made to transfer the voters promised to her at the next election to another candidate: and when this last is elected her friends are bound to vote for Emily Chitty".

The road from such electoral bargains to business traffic in votes was short. There were well-known dealers in votes. Persons describing themselves as charitable ladies and gentlemen interested in getting people into homes, to whom votes might be entrusted, made a living out of this business. There were professional canvassers for votes who would offer to procure any quantity of votes for any institution at 2s.6d. a vote.

The trafic thus revealed was re,arkable and regrettable, but it was not the main evil. The main eveil was the miserable waiting for years and years of the candidates, sometimes to succeed when success came too late. The Charity Organisation Society were clearly in the right in attacking this method of financing institutions. The CHarity Reform Association were able to report in 1912 that no institution established in the past forty years had adopted the voting system. By most, though not all, of those who had it before, it has now been abandoned. Charity means giving without seeking power for oneself. [Beveridge 1948, 145-46].