Children charity Plan is under fire as local watchdog iDonate found its advertising and PR spending took up more than 20% of its donations.
According to the iDonate report, Plan has collected a total donation of 24.6 million in 2011 and advertising spending amounted to 5.2 million - or 21% of the donation and 35% of the charity's annual operating cost.
Compared to other charities in the iDonate report, World Wildlife Fund's advertising spending accounts for 8% of its total cost while World Vision's fund raising and promotion costs were 5.7% and 1.3% respectively.
A spokesperson of Plan said the charity is rather new in Hong Kong, having established the branch in 2009, and therefore needed invest more resources in marketing and fund raising.
Plan has been active in advertising, having appointed celebrities Ekin Cheng and Louisa So and partnered with local brands to produce limited edition t-shirts. The charity has also invited celebrities to visit rural villages in China and broadcasted the footage on TVB.
A marketing veteran said charity organisations can explore cheaper marketing options other than celebrity and TV advertising.
"Digital and social media platforms are the obvious alternatives, and they can work well in building trust in a community as well."
Plan International is headquartered in the U.K. and focuses specifically on children in developing countries.