Monday, March 13, 2017

A rant...what to do? How to do it?

Can we at least try?
Try what?
Try doing something to help those far, far less fortunate.
As Canadians, we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma.
We know we want to help all the women, men and children suffering in the horrendous food crisis in Africa. We want to help because they are all (all!) starving, while we bloggers are well fed.

We want to donate, but to which charity? and what will that charity do with our money?
How do we know which of those will best use our donation?

Therein lies the rub, as the ubiquitous "they" used to say. Do those charities, the ones we most admire, use our donations wisely or are they perhaps using our money to overpay money-hungry executives?

To explain...yesterday I stumbled upon a website (a motorcycle website, so you know I had to have stumbled upon it). The author was discussing well-known charities and how their funds (our funds) are being dispersed.
So, let’s look at this author's numbers and,  for purposes of this discussion only, assume his numbers are somewhat close to today’s truth...

Motorcyle Blogger didn’t pretend to be any kind of expert on the subject, but he says the worst offender in money distribution is UNICEF! Imagine!
His blog states that only 14 cents, out of every dollar donated, will go to those in need, while the rest of the money (donors' money) is making millionaires of the charity’s top executives.
According to him (and, again, I cannot verify the numbers) the second worst offender is the American Red Cross, with only 39 cents out of every dollar going to charity. The Red Cross. The holy grail of charities. Less than half of the money donated. (I don't what it is in Canada, probably close.)
Next, the religion-based, do-good United Way wisely pays its president only $375,000, not to mention many expense benefits. Somehow, however, only 30 cents of the United Way’s dollar reaches people in crisis.
Fourth on the list of big spenders is the president of World Vision (Canada) who receives a home with all expenses paid, maid service, pool maintenance, private schools for his children...the list goes on, leaving about 52 cents of every dollar available for charitable causes. Well, that's not too bad...a little more than half, but...
Finally, the author of the motorcycle website identifies an organization using 93 cents out of every dollar for charity. Yes, almost a whole dollar “goes back out to local charity causes” if you donate to the Salvation Army.
Gotta love the Sally Ann. No denying that, drums and tubas and all.

However, dear Sally, local charity causes, as much as they do need the money, cannot solve the burning question now, in March, 2017... how best to feed Africa's starving children, many of them infants, plus their families, without any executives receiving absurd amounts of our money?
We’ve all seen those children on TV, absolutely skeletal from lack of food, many of them dying every hour, and their parents are in worse shape because they feed the children what little they manage to scrounge and eat little or nothing themselves.
When photos of starving children are shown on our televisions, do we change the channel? Do we go to the kitchen for coffee or maybe a stiffer drink to numb our charitable instincts? 
What do we do?
Younger Canadians can probably go to Africa, and perhaps even should, just as North American youths went to Israel to work in kibbutzes in the 60s, but where to go, exactly? What to do there? How to help millions of people? Young people with hearts and minds full of goodwill don't know how to do it.
Syria, across the Red Sea from Africa
...years of war, years of starvation
Senior citizens cannot simply don a backpack and go to Africa in person, so that lets me, most of my friends, and several of my relatives out of the long trek. in Canada, as in Europe, we have accepted Syrian refugees, and have taken on a responsibility. Try as we might, we can’t teach English to Syrians if we are in Africa helping to stem the tide of starvation.
What to do? What to do?
Do we weep and wring our hands at our helplessness? Do we ignore the cost of a charity's religious recruiting? Or do we embrace it because 52 cents per dollar is more than the other guys?
Or do we try to find a way to send help, that 90-cents-out-of-every-dollar kind of help, right now, today?
I don’t know, but I’m putting this out there for all the world to see, because my fellow bloggers are good people, I know they are.
(Many thanks to for that thought-provoking post, and for the cost comparisons. I don’t know when it was written, or even how much of it is true today, but I do know a good person when I see his writing.)
Linking with Lady Fi's popular meme Our World Tuesday


Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
This is a big question Kay and one close to my own heart. What is more, last year in the UK there was a rather negative report along these lines... however, it is important to remember that things are not that B&W. Decisions around giving certainly are affected by whether we are looking at local or international, and also whether we are seeking to set up a monthly amount, or just a one-off. Aside from the value per $, as you mention, are the ethics of the company involved to be considered. Locally, I give to three as ongoing, all showing as a net spend at 65%. I accept this as being reasonable, given that those who take up the work of administering the charity deserve to receive some pay; but when it drops below this amount, one must begin to question the disbursement.

I think, fundamental to your post here, is the restriction of only seeing the visible charities. Unless we know someone actually 'on ground' to whom we can wire funds directly for support of their work (I have done this for a couple of projects in India), we are left only with what we can see... though we can go in search. GiveWell is a site for such as this. If one is serious about one's donation having most impact, it is worth having a thorough read of their pages. Particularly notable is a reference on their blog which I shall paste here...

UNICEF offers donors the chance to “buy” vaccines and other items. We suspect that this offer is a donor illusion, but the larger issue is that UNICEF provides almost no information at all about its huge variety of activities and how they are going. Most giant international aid charities (Save the Children, World Vision, etc.) are similarly complex and opaque, with CARE coming the closest to meaningful transparency.
Click here to read a full post

It is not so much the cost value to charitable ends which is questioned, but the lack of clarity of what exactly those are and just how targeted they truly are. Add into this the often well-intentioned help being hindered within the target countries due to governing regimes and internal hostilities, which interfere with distribution logistics, and it is really rather a miracle that any aid gets through at all!

All we can do, in the end, is give. Give with Love and Pure Intention. Even if only 40% of our money reaches the far end, it still goes a heck of a lot further than it would in our home countries. I hope the educated and informed GiveWell site will help your focus. Blessings. YAM xx

eileeninmd said...

Hello, it is good to know how our donated money is being spent. It is bad when the money goes into the pockets of the executives. Thanks for sharing this info. Enjoy your day and the week ahead!

Joyful said...

Hi Kay, a great post with some very good information that a lot of people just don't know about. It is for this very reason that I give my money directly to folks in Africa at the grassroots level who really, really need it. Then they don't have to go through any middle men. In fact most of these folks would never ever be helped by any charity. They just don't meet one criteria or another or live in the wrong cities and villages yet they are in desperate need of helps.

I do understand that many people cannot go to Africa like I did and spend the time really getting to know others there. For a time I did offer to act as a conduit (via my blog) for others to send funds. I got very little response because truly most people would rather go through a recognized charity. They trust them a lot more. I am still helping the good folks in Kenya. I just don't bother asking anyone else to help or to offer to help them send funds. It costs a lot of money to transfer funds abroad and so that is an administration fee that I cover in addition to the funds sent. At least I know the funds are actually being used. These days it is mainly for medical needs though hopefully as the country phases in and betters it's National Health Insurance, this will become less of a need. Then it will be back to helping with food and education.

I send you and Lindy(and your husband) my good wishes.

Penelope Puddlisms said...

I have similar questions, Kay. Sources of information are key when it comes to getting the facts right on this type of thing. There is so much fake news, fake experts and hidden agendas and motivation online that it can be hard to distinguish truth from fiction. I recently donated to the Syrian Crisis Fund through the Canadian Red Cross. I first phoned the Media Centre for the Red Cross and asked how much of my donation would go towards the Crisis Fund itself. I was told about 97%. So maybe differing percentages depending on what funding allocations we choose. It’s tricky without a doubt.

Joyful said...

Hi Kay,

These links might be helpful to your readers in Canada and USA. There are many such reputable agencies keeping "watch" over charities all around the world.

Whether we give our funds directly to people on the ground where that is an option or whether we give to registered charities, we all want to know that the funds are actually being used on real needs and not inflated salaries. It's gratifying to know there are still many people in the world who try to help others.

Kay said...

Art uses Charity Navigator to check out how much money is used for overhead/advertising/CEO fees etc. You have to be really careful these days.