Choosing Charities

For a number of years, I used to give to every charity that held out it’s hand – I have the pins, ribbons and thank you brochures to prove it too … but after a while, I started feeling like I was being raped and pillaged on every street corner. I felt bad that I couldn’t give to them all. I felt that I was being made to feel guilty for not putting money into every bucket, box or envelope that was thrust at me every ten metres. The absolute worst part was, my money was going out – but I didn’t see how it was changing anything. The only thing that seemed to be changing was the amount of collectors and number of causes. Apparently, this is a known phenomena, one that I was being affected by – one known as Charity Burnout.

So, a few years back, I decided to follow a simple plan to still meet my philanthropic desires while reducing the effects of the charity burnout. The plan was to choose just three charities a year and give each a regular (monthly) donation. The idea is that it will allow the charity to plan and budget ahead.

In the beginning, I started by choosing the common and popular charities. But after a while I started re-questioning my choices and the impact that they actually made. So, I started examining the charities, scrutinizing their missions and where the money goes. All of a sudden, my choices became far more important – why donate money to charity X, when only 30% of the donation makes it to the end goal? Or support Charity Y when their support is based on religious conversion?

So every year now, I re-evaluate my choices. Partly to ensure that my cash will make the most difference (based on my own moral and ethical standards) and partly to re-align with my view of the world at that point in time. I do not simply seek to discover their mission, but to understand where their money goes as well.

I have tended to seek to give to three different categories of charities – traditionally, these have been within the cause classifications of humanitarian, health and animal. This year, my view of the world and specifically, my views of what areas will provide the greatest impact, have changed, so my scrutiny and choice of charities to reflect this has also come into question.

One charity which has been a mainstay over the last few years has been Oxfam International through Oxfam Australia. A secular humanitarian organisation that specifically aims to assist communities with making a living, ensuring peace and security, providing equality for women, ensuring indigenous and minority rights, and global trade. Additionally, I am impressed that nearly 80% of the donation goes directly to the cause, with a mere 5% going to administration, The remaining 16% is utilised in fund raising activities. Based on their work, the fact that they have an internal improvement program to reduce costs and their willingness to provide truly impactful projects (fair trade, educational vocation, community sustainability, etc) means that they will probably remain part of my philanthropic portfolio for a long time to come.

The animal charities, I decided, are monies wasted if there is no Earth. So, it seems to me, that it is far better to ensure that the “no Earth” situation is an eventuality that does not occur. In this light, I have been evaluating a number of choices. While many choices have presented themselves, one that has stood out was Carbon Neutral.

Carbon Neutral operates as a ‘not for profit’ organisation that aims to provision carbon neutrality by providing native tree planting projects. Of the price charged, about 70% goes into establishing and maintaining tree plantings, and the other 30% is for the administration and record keeping activities. The advantage that CN offers is that you can eliminate your own carbon footprint, while simultaneously reforesting in some of the most environmentally vulnerable areas of Australia.

I am yet to choose a medical charity at this stage, although this year I am specifically looking for a research organisation that is seeking to advance medicine beyond the current scope of the norm – such as regenerative medicine, biomechanics, biogerontology, genomics, or even synthetic therapy. I am hoping to find an organisation that will really make an impact on the way medicine is practiced and that health issues are dealt with. Know of such an organisation that meets the ATO DGR status? Then let me know!

In the meantime, if you are seeking to do your own research here are some links of interest:

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One thought on “Choosing Charities”

  1. I’ve since discovered that the “Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI)” medical research centre is due to open at the Monash University Clayton campus this year. Apparently it will integrate research in three key platforms: structural biology (molecular level), cell biology (cell level) and regenerative biology (organism level).

    Donations can be made via the Monash Online Donation System and marking “ARMI” in the “Other – Please specify” box. 100% of the money goes directly to ARMI (no administrative charges are applied) and onations are tax deductible for Australian tax purposes.

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