Emily Maitlis Interview

Emily Maitlis, 38, is a BBC news presenter and supporter of Action for Children(www.actionforchildren.org.uk). Action for Children, formerly ‘National Children’s Homes’, helps nearly 170,000 children, young people and their families through nearly 450 projects across the UK.
Emily MaitlisWhat is the first charity you can remember supporting?

Multiple Sclerosis. We had a teacher with MS when I was about 12. We were ghastly to him. Years later I felt guilty, so I made a point of donating to MS.
Which cause do you feel most passionately about?

Action for Children. They’re very savvy and very well organized, and it is always a delight to do things for organizations with very clear goals and fundraising ideas. It’s an easy cause to support, because so much can be traced back to having a bad childhood, and they work in incredible ways with kids. I host things like quiz nights, do auctions and donate as well.
Is it more important to give time than money?

Yes, in the long run. I work full time and I’ve got young children, so my time is limited. Last year I decided I was doing too little for too many groups. So I cut it down to just three organisations: Action for Children, WellChild for seriously ill children, and the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Paediatric Unit. They’re all kiddie related, which reflects where I am right now.
What percentage of our income should we give to charity?

The Jewish idea is 10 percent. I’ve never worked out if I stick to that, I’m sure I don’t, but I think it’s a good idea. But it’s difficult. You neither want it to feel like a punitive tax, nor an ego boost for you. I think it comes down to whatever seems to you to be respectable.
What do you get out of your giving?

I’m so conscious about sounding sanctimonious or didactic, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get anything out of it. Of course I do. I feel more able to bear myself because what I do is, inherently, a selfish job. Giving to charity also makes oneself feel involved, which is how one lives as a human being. Jews don’t even call it charity, they call it responsibility. They strive for the highest level: when you give but nobody knows you’re giving. I’m doing this interview so I couldn’t possibly pretend to be trying for that.
Do people in the public eye have a duty to support charity?

Yes, they do. It sounds rather pathetic saying you use ‘celebrity’, but if a charity thinks it can raise more money, it’s a churlish thing to withhold. It doesn’t always go well. I once did a reading at a charity carol concert. At the end I was given a bottle of wine, and I thought: ‘Carrying this down the aisle, it’s like wearing a T Shirt saying “I don’t do things for free”. It was a nice gesture, but I felt like a total fraud.


Copyright The Financial Times Ltd