Royal charity that has partnered with Prince Harry’s life coaching firm paid its staff 98 per cent of the money it raised in a year, the Daily Mail can reveal.
The Queen‘s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) brought in £796,106 from donors but paid out £787,314 in staff costs to its ten employees in the 12 months to March 2021.
Over half of the cash went to its five most senior executives who earned £420,000 between them, Charity Commission accounts show.
Chris Kelly’s predecessor, Nicola Brentnall, the chief executive, earned at least £140,000 – a similar salary to the boss of the RSPCA, despite the animal charity raising some £130million in donations and employing nearly 2,000 staff.
Mr Kelly was on roughly £100k at the time in his role as Chief Operating Officer and the QCT say he is now on roughly half the £140k following a restructure when he was promoted last year.
‘Chris Kelly was appointed as CEO in April 21, at which point QCT restructured, reducing the size and costs of its senior team, with the current CEO’s salary now approximately half of the figure quoted.
‘The spend on the Senior Management Team is now substantially lower in the current financial year, reflecting this restructure.’ Said the QCT
The figures spent on salaries raises serious questions over how much emphasis the organisation, with the Queen as patron, puts on charitable endeavours.
The QCT has already raised eyebrows for promoting online coaching company BetterUp, which employs Prince Harry as its chief impact officer. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had been president and vice president of QCT before they stepped down from royal duties a year ago.
Now it has entered a partnership with BetterUp, the Queen‘s Commonwealth Trust runs testimonials on its website describing Prince Harry’s business as ‘truly phenomenal’.
Branding experts have said the endorsement from a charity with Her Majesty at its head is valuable for the online coaching firm now worth £3.5billion and hailed as ‘the largest mental health and coaching company in the world’.
Their exact earnings are not known, though former CEO Nicola Brentnall was the top earner. The charity says the current senior management team’s pay is ‘substantially lower’.
But the latest accounts do reveal five of the charity’s ten staff had total packages worth more than £60,000 in the 12 months to March 2021.
BetterUp said in a blogpost on its website last year that it was working with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, but neither party has revealed the exact terms of the deal, how long it will last and exactly how many people the QCT works with will benefit.
The California-based company has said the tie-up is part of its ‘Pledge 1%’ movement, where it donates 1% of all its coaching sessions to communities and charities, according to The Observer.
David Haigh, chief executive of London consultancy Brand Finance, said the QCT should have carried out a careful due diligence process to ensure the charitable partnership was appropriate.
He said: ‘Any company which is supported by the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust is going to gain credibility, and this will be of economic value.’
The QCT was set up to provide funding, tools and support for young Commonwealth leaders to help them transform their communities across agriculture, education, employability and more.
But QCT told the Mail the BetterUp deal was ‘a generous one-off gift from Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, as the Former President of QCT, in order to support young people’.
Although BetterUp is providing support to young leaders for free at the QCT, it usually charges up to £360 per month for its virtual coaching services.
It comes after the QCT made supermodel Naomi Campbell its first Global Ambassador last year, despite her own charity, Fashion for Relief (FFR), being under investigation.
The Charity Commission is probing allegations that FFR spent £1.6million on a fundraising gala in Cannes, France, yet gave only £5,000 to good causes over the same period. The Queen launched the QCT in 2018.
The next year it was given a one-off £2.7million donation from the Queen’s Trust, which then closed.
But the latest figures show it is eating into that donation to keep afloat, with total expenditures last year at £1.5million despite the small amounts raised.
A QCT spokesman said: ‘The impact of C19 has been felt across the Charitable Sector – and impacted fundraising for many – QCT included.
‘On April 1, 2021 QCT restructured reducing the size and costs of its senior team. The spend on the Senior Management Team will be substantially lower in the current financial year, reflecting this restructure.
‘The Queen’s Trust funds were always intended to be utilised in the early years of QCT as QCT developed its own fundraising.
‘The BetterUp support was a generous one-off gift from Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, as the Former President of QCT, in order to support young people.
‘It provides substantial benefit to the Young Leaders supported by QCT so that they are better prepared for the pressures of running social enterprises.
‘The BetterUp support is a gift in kind to the charity, and all gifts in kind received by QCT are published in the charity’s Annual Report and Accounts.’
It came as Harry cut ties with the billionaire Saudi donor at the centre of the probe engulfing his father over fears he was offering ‘cash for access’, emails have revealed.
The Duke of Sussex expressed ‘major concern’ with the motives of Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz in 2014 shortly before severing their relationship.
But despite his son’s reservations, the Prince of Wales, 73, received £1.5million in donations to his charities from Mr Mahfouz before handing him a CBE. The Metropolitan Police is now investigating whether the 2016 honour was given in exchange for money. The revelation that Harry specifically highlighted the ‘cash for access’ issue two years before the ceremony raises questions about his father’s judgment.
Harry agreed to meetings with Mr Mahfouz, 52, and his sons after receiving an offer of a £1million donation to Sentebale, a charity he co-founded to help African children with HIV.
But the billionaire’s representative then inserted a precondition that the royal would also have to make a private visit to Saudi Arabia to meet him and his family, the Sunday Times reported.
Mark Dyer, a Sentebale trustee and former royal equerry known as Harry’s ‘second dad’, replied on email expressing his concern. He wrote: ‘Are we really saying that if PH [Prince Harry] commits to a trip to Saudi, Sentebale will receive the donation?… It is starting to bring into question “cash-for-access”.’
Mr Mahfouz’s representative responded the same day, insisting the Saudi visit had originally been raised by Charles at Clarence House weeks earlier. Harry wound down the relationship but donations to Prince Charles’s charities increased.