Find out if that charity is worthy of your dollar
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 four-and-aquarter 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 firsthand the impact of their microfinance work in Tanzania.
Microfinance is the making of small loans to poor people working to improve their lot and that of their families.
Unlike giving a bag of food, or some money to pay for something specific like a cow, a vaccination or school fees (the traditional and awfully important model of aid and charity), microfinance done ethically is like putting your charitable dollar on elastic. Money lent to a rice farmer, once repaid, can be lent to a market 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-for-profit 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. Stashing cash is not a charitable endeavour, in my book. 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-yearold and the green bean brought home to us the importance of funding the ambulance service properly, even if the Government hasn’t yet twigged to it.
But I also give to tin-shakers 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.