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A Cause for Concern: Decide on Supporting a Charity

foodbank1

Editor’s note: I’ve wanted to publish something like the article below for a long time now. Our times of austerity and neo-liberal government, is also a time for all members of society who can afford to be generous with their money to start donating to charity. We started making regular donations to The Trussell Trust: a charity tackling extreme poverty and exclusion in the UK by supplying and supporting foodbanks. It is very important to me that people don’t have to go hungry in the 21st century; I believe that people who are on the breadline need help most and I trust the Trust.

Since the beginning of time it has never been disputed that being charitable is an honourable and justifiable trait. For any community, charity is the difference between the pursuit for equality and the continued suffering of the desperate and less-fortunate.

There are three main ways that we tend to get involved and support charities in our lives, and they are:

  1. By volunteering our time and effort.
  2. By giving regular donations.
  3. By including a charity in our Will.

To keep it simple, we don’t need to dig too deep into the subject of morality. We all know that helping others, our loved ones and strangers, makes us whole as people. More importantly it brings a smile and a sense of relief to those who have been born with things like serious health problems, or have been unlucky enough to find themselves in a horrible circumstance.

However, the problem we all face in this day and age is, figuring out to what degree our donations are helping. It’s only a more recent realisation that so much of a charity’s earnings can be pumped into administration and advertising costs. It’s also true of some charities that the executives are not just the highest paid staff; they earn at least twice than most teachers and nurses. And we may well ask one another “do they truly earn this wage?”

Perhaps it’s from our modern way of cynicism that it’s almost impossible to trust an organisation, even if it does nothing but promote good will and help for the underprivileged (not sure they would be operating as a charity if they did otherwise).  Moreover, like with any type of business, these organisations are at competition with each other. They compete to create notoriety, funding from the government and a greater number of staff.

So how do we, as mere individuals suss out the best ways to give and who deserves the most support? This comes back to how an organisation competes for its level of income, which as a method of capitalism reeks of dishonour, but then how do you become truly helpful on a recognisable scale if only a small handful of people know you exist? Everything needs to expand in order to become successful.

One way to get a little clarity is to rely on our dear friend; the informative internet. Reading content from charity websites and alike can give us a better idea of what is being done with the money. Again it comes down to questions of morality within our own hearts.

Here’s a way of considering the right charity for you:

  • Decide what means the most to you.
  • Decide to your mind who needs the most help (not necessarily the same thing).
  • Decide which organisations you think are already receiving the most help, and whether that is a deterrent or not.
  • Look into what the local charities are doing in your own community
  • Look up any ongoing activities in your local area
  • Speak to charity employees/donators locally or through email correspondence about the ideas a charity has moving forward, like certain desires and plans for fundraising.
  • Decide what means the most to you.

For some of us, charities are a part of our lives for many years and so the ways in which we give are straightforward – we look to support causes what we are emotively attached to, perhaps through family history.

However, people like me may be looking to pick a ‘favourite’ charity someday. And aside from our most cherished passions, sometimes picking a cause to join is a matter of guesswork, and we can only hope that the right people or animals are getting the support that we’d want them to receive.

My advice is to do a little research, and never give-in to shopping centre charity ‘salespersons’ or be too soft with adverts. For guidance, you can use a website such as CharityChoice that lists many, many thousands of charities. From this you can figure out the problems being tackled, how genuine the charity appears to be and who is benefiting from the funds created.

Of course we can never be entirely sure than a cut of a charity’s earnings hasn’t gone towards a new car or holiday for the manager, but by following your own instincts and looking to support locally you should at the very least feel charitable and hope that someone, somewhere who is struggling in life is getting some funding and love.

So what are your passions? What is your view on a charity’s profits? Do you feel that all donations count, or does corruption leave a bad taste?

Check out this article on the Guardian for data on the top 1,000 U.K charities by donations. Some of the recorded income is quite astounding.

photo credit: Alameda County Community Food Bank via photopin cc

16 thoughts on “A Cause for Concern: Decide on Supporting a Charity”

  1. The company I work for likes to help the local community, employees are able to volunteer on company time to help out. So, once every other week, I get to sit with little 5-6 year olds at a local school to help them with their reading. You can tell that some kids obviously read a lot at home. Others obviously do not get to read at all and it’s these that I like to help and see improve as the weeks go by.

    Aside from that, I dig deep when friends are doing charity runs, donate stuff to shops and sometimes buy stuff at shops.

    I’ll check out CharityChoice so thanks for pointing me in that direction!

    I’ve yet to find a ‘favourite’ charity but in my retirement, I see myself volunteering my time for something or other!

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  2. Oh and in answer to your question, the news of corruption/theft has made me more reluctant to just hand over cash – I no longer donate to people rattling buckets or collecting door to door.

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  3. I do my own charitable project so I know for sure 100% of the funds are used towards the cause. Many charities now dedicate all private donations to the projects, while corporate donations go to pay salaries and offices. I like that too. Otherwise I try to give food, or something material, not cash.

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    • @Pauline: Yes, doing your own charity is a great way to ensure that what you believe is is really supported. I can see myself doing this one day as well. We did consider going straight to a foodbank and donating but decided against it: we have no idea what people there really need. And, as I said, we believe in the Trust.

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  4. I’m far more inclined to support–with time and money–charitable organizations that operate in my community. I like to see firsthand the results, and often I know some of the people in the organization. If I volunteer time, my personal network expands as I meet people in the organization and perhaps its ‘clients.’ Maybe I’m getting a bit cynical, but I feel more and more like giving to a massive, global or national charity is throwing money away. I also resist supporting organizations that were, and should be, getting significant taxpayer support, but as that’s declined in the age of austerity and ‘no new taxes,’ these organization hit up taxpayers directly. Most US public schools are a prime example in this category, imo.

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    • @Kurt: I would agree with you on the global, large charities being a waste of effort. I am not so certain about the tradiionally funded by tax money organisations: these are so strapped for cash atbthe moment that I’d say, I would use the ‘how much I trust’ criterion. Governments don’t care about this kind of thing any longer.

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  5. I am specifically focused on access to healthy food, housing, and education. Luckily, there are a ton of organizations where I can donate my time and see the impact of that donation in the moment that I’m volunteering. There are other organizations that have a long standing presence in the community and I feel comfortable giving them money as well. I’ve decided to combat cynicism by researching organizations before giving.

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  6. Finding out where charitable donations are going is an important consideration. I like to donate to charities close to my heart, which for me is bowel cancer research and children’s charities. With cancer research UK, you can choose to donate to specific projects so that gives you some idea that your money is going to that cause. However, I’m not clear on how much of my donations go towards admin costs – I’ll definitely look into that.

    I also support my child’s school by taking part in charity events to raise money for the school and learning resources.

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    • @Hayley: Cancer is a good one to support; and of course the children’s charity. For years I gave to a charity that supports young, homeless people to get off the streets. I also ran Bristol Half Marathon for One25 (a charity that support prostitutes who wish to get off the game).

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  7. I think that if someone is doing good work running a charity they deserve to be compensated appropriately. But I absolutely understand the concern.

    I’m Ukrainian so I always want to give to that cause, especially now, but it’s very hard to find a way to get money into the right hands. I’m also a huge fan of planned parenthood as they gave me free annual check ups for the five years I was without insurance.

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  8. My husband and I both work for non-profits, so we understand the importance of charitable donations. One thing we appreciate now is the benefit of systematic giving. Not only does it help charities to budget and plan projects, but if we strive to be self-disciplined and consistent in saving, why not be the same in giving? Especially since one of our purposes for saving is not just to live a more selfish, luxurious life, but to be able to share more with others. We currently give 20% of our pre-tax income to charities.

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    • @Deb: Good points and I do agree that we have to be consistent in giving as well as in saving. This is particualrly important because the gap between the ones who have and the ones who haven’t is increasing.

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  9. There are a lot of causes that I am passionate about, so I have a hard time picking just one to donate to (ie are women’s groups in the third world more deserving of my money, or small animal rescue groups?) so I try to distribute evenly. I don’t donate often but when I do I make sure it’s to a cause that is important to me.

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