While non-profit organization "Aitan Eestit" (English: "I help Estonia") collects money for charity organizations, the organization keeps 20 percent of the donations for itself despite being registered as a not-for-profit, only outlining the distribution of the money when asked, users have said.
SA Southwestern Advantage is well-known in Estonia for sending students to the U.S. to sell books door-to-door. With the coronavirus pandemic this year, it has not proved possible to fly students to America, however, and instead, employees at Southwestern have founded a non-profit association, MTÜ Aitan Eestit.
Thisis an environment where donations for nine charity organizations are amassed. Personnel trained to sell books have been using their sales skills to call people in Estonia, in an effort to convince them to make permanent donations. The organization said that they collected 300 permanent donors on the first day. Experienced bookseller Robert Rebel said initially they had called on their friends and acquaintances.
"We then ask for recommendations from them. They can recommend their friends, and we build slowly from that," Rebel said.
The organization's activity is seemingly simple. They tell their potential donors about their activities, charities they represent, and how to donate. After this, they direct people to the charitable website Aitan Eestit. On the main page, a payment order form is on prominent display.
"During the call, the salesperson directed me and asked whether I'm behind a computer so I could make a donation immediately. I had to log in to my bank and theygave me the data, and I did it, and when the call was over, I had registered for permanent donation," donor Joonas said.
However, what is not being made clear to donors, ERR's online news in Estonian reports, is that they keep up to a fifth of the donation rather than those in need getting it.
"Where the money goes and how it all works, how I can know where my money is going, wasn't talked about at all. And the fact that only 80 percent of it goes to donations - I heard it here for the first time," Joonas went on.
With some effort, you can really find the information about where the money goes to on the site, ERR reports. At the same time, the permanent donation form is on the front page. Company employee Marek Kütt said that he hasn't generally needed to explain the distribution of the money to the donors, however, but is prepared to do so if they ask.
"Maybe a couple of people have asked what we (as in Aitan Eestit-ed.) get from this."
ERR journalist Kaili Malts talked to 15 people who had been called by the organization, with only one of them saying they had been informed about where the money is going.
Project manager at Aitan Eestit Priit Märtin said that the organization is very transparent. He added that 99 percent of the donors don't care how the money is distributed.
"During the phone call, we offer to go the website, and the information is there very clearly."
As of Friday, June 12, the organization had found over 2,000 donors. If every donor gives about €10 a month, the organization gets €20,000 over the same period. From this amount, 80 percent, or €16,000, will go to charity. The money is divided between nine organizations so each of these gets about €1,700. Aitan Eestit keeps €4,000.
To answer the question who wins out more, the association says on its website: "We believe that for our partner, 80 percent of a collected €100 is more useful than 100 percent from €10. Moreover, before cooperating with us, [the charities] got nothing."
Editor: Roberta Vaino