It’s good to give if the money’s not wasted

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEW W -

Giv­ing to char­ity. There are few bet­ter uses for money, un­less the char­ity con­cerned is in­ef­fi­cient, hap­less and do­ing lit­tle to al­le­vi­ate the plight it ex­ists to tackle.

I’m sorry to say I think there are a few thou­sand of those in this coun­try of fourand-a-quar­ter mil­lion peo­ple with 26,336 char­i­ties – that’s one for ev­ery 170 peo­ple.

I’ve been think­ing about char­i­ties re­cently be­cause I’m in Africa with World Vi­sion to see first-hand the im­pact of their mi­cro­fi­nance work in Tan­za­nia.

Mi­cro­fi­nance is mak­ing small loans to poor peo­ple work­ing to im­prove their lot.

Un­like giv­ing a bag of food, or some money to pay for some­thing spe­cific like a cow, a vac­ci­na­tion or school fees, mi­cro­fi­nance done eth­i­cally is like putting your char­i­ta­ble dol­lar on elas­tic. Money lent to a rice farmer, once re­paid, can be lent to a mar- ket trader, then a seam­stress, then a butcher, giv­ing each a chance to ex­pand their mea­gre wealth.

I’m also climb­ing Mt Kil­i­man­jaro with a bunch of A-list Kiwi celebri­ties who are World Vi­sion am­bas­sadors (Mahe Drys­dale, Kerre McIvor nee Wood­ham, Rhys Darby, Juli­ette Haigh, and Boh Runga who are blog­ging away like mad on the World Vi­sion web­site), so al­ti­tude sick­ness per­mit­ting, I hope to get a high-level view of things over there.

But while it’s the trip of a life­time, I agreed to go only be­cause I be­lieve not-for­profit mi­cro­fi­nance is ef­fec­tive and that World Vi­sion does strive for ef­fi­ciency, ev­i­denced by staff cuts when con­di­tions de­mand.

I try to bring that philosophy to my own char­i­ta­ble giv­ing.

The free on­line Char­i­ties Reg­is­ter means any char­ity’s fi­nan­cial state­ments can be checked to see how much money is put to work, or if the wage bill of the of­fice staff and chief ex­ec­u­tive are con­sum­ing too much.

And if a char­ity

has re­serves, I would want to know why I should give it more.

Like many house­holds, we do a mix­ture of planned and un­planned giv­ing. We make a do­na­tion to St John ev­ery year ever since the ter­ri­fy­ing in­ci­dent of the chok­ing 3-year-old and the green bean brought home to us the im­por­tance of fund­ing the am­bu­lance ser­vice prop­erly.

But I also give to tin­shak­ers in the street some­times, if I know enough about the cause and char­ity.

Like ev­ery­one, I have my prej­u­dices.

For ex­am­ple, though I am in favour of treat­ing an­i­mals hu­manely, I am less likely to give to a fluffy dog char­ity than one con­nected with adult men­tal health be­cause I learnt first-hand in the UK that char­i­ta­ble dol­lars flow to sick kids and an­i­mals, but sick-in-the-head adults are rarely top of any­one’s pri­or­ity list.

We also do a lit­tle in­ward­look­ing phi­lan­thropy, with one reg­u­lar pay­ment in favour of a less for­tu­nate fam­ily mem­ber each month.

But even with the lat­ter giv­ing, I wouldn’t do so hap­pily even to a fam­ily mem­ber if I thought the money was be­ing wasted.

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