Wednesday, 19 October 2011

There are far too many

charities in Australia. There are, literally, thousands of registered charities across the country.
Australia's biggest charity - in terms of funding, breadth and depth of work - is Anglicare. It is not as well known as St Vincent de Paul or some of the other large charities but government, at both the federal and state level, depends heavily on Anglicare and the volunteers within it.
Some of the other charities, such as the Red Cross or the Cancer Council or Greenpeace, are well known to everyone. They are large and have a variety of local and international interests. There are others which are so small that nobody has ever heard of them apart from those directly involved. There are charities of all sorts and shapes and sizes in between the two extremes.
Most people have, sometimes unwittingly, been the beneficiary of a charity. I have been a beneficiary of "charity". The two scholarships I was fortunate enough to get were from "charitable organisations". Education is usually considered to be "charitable". Perhaps it is - or it might be a curiosity left over from a time when such things were designed to benefit the poor.
But, there are still too many charities. Many of them overlap. There are two charities here which work to provide guide dogs for the blind. It is a very worthy cause but, because of differences of opinion among people within one group a second group was set up. Now there are two sets of running costs. That is wrong. The second lot of administration costs should be going towards providing the service not running it.
Most people are aware of these problems but they go on giving to charities anyway. It is probably just as well they do. Government is unlikely to provide many of the services charities provide.
But yesterday, when I was working through the arrangements for my uncle's funeral service, I was asked whether we wanted donations to a charity. The service will be very small and private so the answer was no - indeed that was the assumption of the person who asked. Like my father my uncle did give to charity but, rather than give small amounts to many, he gave more to a few in which he had a particular interest. He watched the way it was spent.
My father and I are fortunate as we have a very particular interest indeed. We can give directly to that and know that everything we give goes directly to the needs of the children concerned. Without any administration costs the money given by us and others can do far more. There is a catch of course. The person we give to is running a care facility for unaccompanied children in Africa. Donations to her work are not tax deductible. It is not a charity. It will never be a charity. That does not bother us. We would rather see the money spent on the children. There have been people who have refused to donate to this cause because they say, "It's not a proper charity."
But, after the question yesterday, I wondered again what the motivation is for donating to charity. I would have thought it was a desire to help but perhaps, for a few, help also has to be tax deductible.

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