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

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

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.

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