Friday, 19 December 2014

Charit-ease...?!

A few years ago when I was living at home and had little personal expenses, I made it my aim to donate to a different charity every week, sometimes 2 depending on how generous and/or inspired I was feeling.

I did this every week for about a year and created a spreadsheet of the details so I knew who I had donated to, when and how much. After this time I started really wondering if the $20 or $30 I sent to the organisation was actually doing any good. I mean it sounds obvious, of course any money going to an organisation has be to helping somehow, right?!

As I searched for different organisations to give money to, I came across popular ones which had regular donors and were easily reaching their targets of tens of thousands of dollars. Then there were other ones which were struggling to make even a dollar. Those were the ones I'd never heard of before and seemed to really desperately be needing funding and support more than the ones who had regular donors.

I kept this in mind when I was watching TV one day and noticed a World Vision ad as well as a few other charities showing impoverished children and families, with a voice over narrating their story and how they're struggling as well as what WV has done and the viewer can do, to get more donations to help these children. I don't mean any disrespect to WV or any other charity who has the fund to advertise publicly, I'm sure they do great work, but it made me wonder: a 30 second ad costs anywhere from $5k-$250k from what I've heard/read, depending on the time it's slotted for viewing and factoring in production costs. Maybe charities get discounts or something, but if that's the case, then why don't all charities get the same deal?

I wondered as I watched the same ad for the 5th time that day, these ads have been running for years, sure they've probably changed it up, but for the cost of 1 ad, wouldn't the organisation be able to solve the problem it's actually advertising/raising awareness for? If I were to sponsor a child, would that $30/month or thereabouts really go to the child in need, or would it go to the CEO's paradise island fund and someone from the company put together a nice little letter leading me to believe that it was actually doing some good?

Organisations that have marketing budgets and constantly send out letter of support, wouldn't they be better off sending money to the people who actually need it? Instead of spending it on materials which I for one, usually dispose of upon opening, if that.

I admit I claim ignorance of the whole procedure. As mentioned above, these organisations may well have some kind of marketing or publicity deal worked out so they're not actually blowing a budget, but then, if they're afforded that 'luxury', why aren't other organisations that are struggling?

I personally support Kids Help Line because of how much they've helped me throughout my life. I probably wouldn't be here today if it weren't for them. I know they have marketing materials and possibly a sponsorship with Optus given their 'free calls from Optus numbers' thing they used to have. I know that when I call up, there is often times a ridiculously long wait, sometimes I didn't get through and that was an immense struggle for me to deal with. I may 'blindly' donate to their cause because I feel a connection to them and I don't actually know where the money goes, but just assume it does some good which I feel better about.

I've also decided to start a small fundraising project of my own to support Greenpeace in their fight for the Great Barrier Reef. I've spoken to a member of their team about getting stickers and stuff to accompanying the jewelry I'm looking to make and sell to raise funds and awareness of the issue at hand.

Yes my actions may possibly contradict what I've said above, but the point is, I don't see any ads for Greenpeace or Kids Help Line.

An animal organisation I recently supported at the Super Furry Festival in Surry Hills, World League for the Protection of Animals (WLPA) do a fantastic job at fostering and rehoming abandoned animals. Often they run out of space to keep the rescued pets in and find themselves in desperate measures to contain every animal as well as care for it until it can be adopted out. They survive on volunteers and donations which go back into providing food and medicines for the animals. When you adopt a cat from them, the $280 fee includes all the vaccinations, desexing and a care plan, as well as support from the organisation in times of need or just confusion. They aren't terribly well known and need as much help as they can get. One of the organisers told me that the RSPCA has a pretty hefty bank account which they're just sitting on, and it's not hard to believe given how well known they are and how much support is available to them.

I'm not saying the RSPCA or World Vision don't do great work, in all honesty I'm not entirely sure what their working procedures are, but presumably they do offer assistance where it is needed. I'm saying, what about the little guys? The organisations that don't have the big names or bank accounts and are desperately in need of people's help, support and funds in order to survive and do great work.

I know this post is possibly confusing, me saying that I don't understand how advertised organisations work, yet supporting some fairly big names myself. At the end of the day I'm just one of a multitude of people that wants to help those in need in any way that I can, and I'd like to know or at least believe that whatever help or support I am able to provide does go where it's needed, not to an avenue which I believe is a waste of funds.

I'm sure anyone that has ever donated to a charity, however little the amount was, has received a letter of thanks and at some point a newsletter detailing what that charity has been doing over the past few months, then at crucial times, a plea for more funds. I know I've received this from many of the organisations I've donated to, as well as the calls of appreciation, followed by a plea for more money or a monthly donation which you know upon answering is the reason for their call.

Occasionally when looking through the newsletters or other paraphernalia in the envelope I've wondered if the stories are true or if they've just taken sad looking pictures, put them with a tragic and heart-tugging story and sent them to people who are financially invested in feeling sorry for others.

I don't mean to sound callous. I know there are genuinely struggling individuals out there who do benefit from donations, but reality can be a real bitch sometimes.

When I told my mother earlier this year I was gradually becoming vegetarian because I didn't believe in the way animals were being treated prior to slaughter, she claimed that they were and they were happy living their lives as God intended. I tried to open her eyes to marketing ploys and ignorance but she wasn't interesting in listening to it and initially criticized my choice but has since tried to understand and even applaud my decision saying that she couldn't do it.

I watched a video once where a marketing executive addressed a crowd telling them how their ignorance played a huge part in the meat industry. She used the example of the website cover image which showed a pig in metal stocks with a message cover the bottom half of it saying something comforting to hide what the image really was. An adult pig lying down in the metal stocks with nowhere to move. The audience were shocked and stunned when they saw what was really going on. Her message was simple "we're able to get away with this because you let us". After finishing her speech she then left a completely shocked and silent audience who were obviously unaware to what was really going on.

What if other organisations are doing a similar thing? Very conspiratorial I know. What if people who agree to have their story told in order to boost support don't actually benefit in the end, but they are silenced by the media or whoever controls the decision making? Food for though.

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