How to give to charity (1)

The fundraising industry and charities can become co-dependent

moneyA while ago I looked at  an American site called Charity Navigator.1 A charity itself,  it looks at the financial efficiency, governance and transparency of charities in the USA, providing a star rating and all kinds of information. What a good idea. It highlights total clunkers. For example, the Cancer Survivors’ Fund which spends just 8.1% of its income on its programs; 89.2% on its fundraising. It must be congratulated on giving professional fundraisers a new purpose and meaning in life.

However, try the ’10 best charities everyone has heard of’ list and take a bow, Samaritan’s Purse.  Samaritan’s Purse puts 88% of every dollar it receives into its charitable programs. (Though it still manages to pay Franklin Graham a to my mind eye-popping annual salary of $443,000. Compassion International’s CEO Santiago H Mellado scrapes by on $130,000 less. Compassion turns over half as much again as Samaritan’s Purse ($0.8bn compared with $0.5bn) and hands over 83% of its income to the poor.)

Others are still good but not quite so good: Oxfam America burns through nearly 14% of its income in fundraising and pays its CEO nearly  half a million dollars a year. Its turnover is a mere $90m.

A very few charities– fewer than 1%–get perfect scores on Charity Navigator for their financial policies and their accountability, openness and integrity. Most are small. In the evangelical missions space, just one manages it: step forward The Outreach Foundation which ‘seeks to engage Presbyterians in Christ-centered evangelistic mission for the salvation of humankind.’ Expect Presbyterians to be good with with accountancy and souls.

Here in the UK I know of no similar charity. Does anyone? Instead, we are assailed by various groups in various ways with no very easy way to figure out whether we are dealing with the gruesome UK equivalent of the Cancer Survivor’s Fund or the more uplifting examples like Samaritan’s Purse or The Outreach Foundation.

  1. Accessed November 10 2016

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