MADIGAN Don’t bite the hand that helps
It’s easy to be disheartened and cynical about donating to charities, but keep the faith – without them, we would find ourselves in a whole new world of trouble
IT’S NOT so much that employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross were fired for hiring prostitutes.
It’s not that staff of that venerable aid charity Oxfam reportedly entered into some spirited engagements with sex workers while helping out after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
It’s not that more industrious members of Queensland’s criminal class will sometimes invest in a fold-up table and chair after a cyclone then spend a day outside a shopping centre raising cash that funds not so much a recovery operation as a dozen beers and a few quinellas on the Dapto Dogs.
It’s not even that, in the last week alone, allegations of inappropriate behaviour were raised about two ostensibly respectable Australian charities – one devoted to helping veterans of the Afghanistan War, which police are now investigating, the other to helping the homeless.
It’s rather that the cumulative impact of all these revelations and accusations is robbing the ancient act of charity of its lustre – that moral sheen that surrounds the act of giving and rouses the angels within our nature.
Not so long ago, many Australians “tithed’’ their local church – handing over 10 per cent of their annual income to an institution many believed could be relied upon to help the needy.
Now we hand over a national average of $764 a year to charities, according to statistics from Swinburne University of Technology – roughly 1 per cent of the average annual wage.
Swinburne reveals that while the figure has increased slightly, the number of givers plunged by about 8 per cent in 2015-16.
There’s a steady stream of data reinforcing the perception that while Australians are willing to give their time to help others, they’re snap- ping the purse shut and leaving the wallet in the back pocket when it comes to o handing cash to charities.
The Bible may have lost its s relevance but many of us still hear faint echoes of those ancient entreaties on charity, including that blunt one in Matthew’s gospel that provides little wriggle room – “give to the one who begs of f you’’.
Our problem in the 21st t century is that the “one who begs of you’’ is not a blind man dealing with the palsy in some Middle-Eastern back alley, but quite possibly a spiv in a zoot suit with a waterfront home in the tax haven of Bermuda.
When you take a closer look at some of these “charitable’’ operations, you can’t help but admire the scale of ambition, and the extraordinary success of what are essentially slick, corporate collaboratives.
A decade ago in the United States, a group of people did In our great state, unforgettable experiences are just around the corner. Let our best travel writers and photographers take you on a journey from the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef, and be inspired for your next Queensland escape. Don’t miss your FREE travel magazine in today’s paper little more than throw the word “cancer’’ into a string of charities, sit back and watch the coin roll in.
They raised about $180 million between 2008 and 2012 and spent the money not so much on helping to find a cure for humanity’s scourge but trips to Disneyland, ocean cruises, cars, and even fees for a dating service.
The evidence, which materialised after 50 states signed on to the “Cancer Fund of America’’ lawsuit – which is still dealing with the fallout – revealed some of the defendants took home salaries of up to $371,000, while actual charitable donations were small change – $45,000 to kids dealing with cancer.
It might be tempting to give in to cynicism and turn your back on giving, but there’s a way of checking that the people asking for your cash are legitimate.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission has a record 55,894 charities on its books to which it gives the green light to claim the tax concessions they’re entitled to (although they are ultimately decided by the ATO).
A charity is not legally required to register with the ACNC but any charity that is registered and is found to have behaved unethically gets struck off.