Tuesday, 29 December 2009

There was another charity dollar discussion

in the paper this morning. This time it was talking about a cancer charity which gave away less than 1c in the dollar last year. They claim this was because of 'start up' expenses over the last two years.
I have problems with this. There are already far too many charities in Australia - and not enough charity.
There are very big, big, middle sized, small and very small charities. They are there for all sorts of purposes, human, animal, environment, arts, education etc etc. It is all very confusing. They all claim to be absolutely essential. Nobody else deals with the precise issue they have been set up to handle etc etc. There are, believe it or not, more than 600,000 registered charities in Australia. Yes, 600,000 for a population of about 23million.
You hear my frustration by now? Over the last couple of years I have been reluctantly involved in efforts to set up the fundraising for an organisation for people with severe and profound communication impairments. It is a worthy cause. There is no organisation, so far as we can discover, that specifically handles communicaton impairments. The problem is that we cannot see where it fits into the guidelines for charitable status. It needs charitable status to be an effective fundraising group. I am also reluctant because, although the problem is a major and largely unrecognised issue, we have so many charities I feel that another one will just get lost in the system. Money raised will end up being used on administration and more fundraising. Efforts will go into that rather than into the cause it has been designed to help. The group is small and the very nature of the problem means that there are communication issues, that the professionals who deal with the problem through their employment will be those who make the decisions about what is done and how it is done.
There are multiple charities which support cancer, the intellectually disabled, the mentally ill, sports (and sports for people with disabilities), the arts, animals and the environment. Some of the big ones have been around for years. Small ones come. Some stay and grow. Others fade. Some are splinter groups resulting from the infighting within larger groups. "You aren't giving our particular little group a fair share" and "You aren't paying enough attention to our needs" and "You didn't vote X back on to the committee" and...it goes on.
Then there are the fundraising ploys "We are charity direct. 95c in every dollar goes directly to the cause." Ah yes but 'directly' can (and usually does) include the costs of fundraising, the office and the administrative staff. Whatever the claims you can be certain that the proportion being spent on the problem is limited.
Several years ago a charity I have had dealings with over the years had a "fund raising dinner". It was a jubilee year occasion and was being advertised as a glitzy affair. At that dinner there was also supposed to be an acknowledgment of several people who had contributed to the cause the charity supports. I was specifically invited to attend. Several people tried to persuade me. I declined. The "fund raising dinner" cost the organisation some thousands of dollars. No money was raised. I have always been relieved I did not attend.
If those who had gone had donated the same amount and a much smaller amount had been spent on tea and biscuits I would have considered attending. People need to show appreciation of others efforts and some need to have their efforts appreciated but excess is not appreciation. We need to review the number of charities. We need to review the causes they support. Charities must come together and provide the services they claim to provide. Only in that way will people come to appreciate what charity can do.
An excess of charities is not appreciation.


Rachel Fenton said...

It's anger making to think that so little of what we pledge actually does anything other than furnish an office somewhere! And here was me feeling grumpy about the school "donations" - the money the law says we don't have to pay but which the school harasses us mercilessly for! I wonder how much donation goes on educational resources and how much goes towards the "essential" staff "development" courses and weekends, and expensive pastries for morning tea in the office! If I were any use with numbers I would investigate! But, I digress; what i don't get is, whay don't all the charities for one cause pool their resourcces and put the money where it's needed? Oh, of course, they wouldn't be able to sit in an office eating pastries and yacking on the phone then, would they.

I wish you well with your cause, Cat, you at least have a knack for communicating and a proven record of putting in more than you take out!

Happy New Year, and I'm really glad you strayed over to my blog this year! I look forward to seeing your cat hairs around the place in 2010!

catdownunder said...

I am glad I prowled over to you too. Jane's Pitch Party was an excellent thing!