Thursday, March 05, 2009

When Charity Needs Charity.


The severity and speed of the current economic downturn has left many unable to sleep or eat, consumed with worry that they will be counted amongst the millions facing the possibility of the proverbial "breadline". In addition, the very nature of this "crisis" breeds cynicism, making people cling even more to what's left of their depleted finances.

So, it comes as no surprise that charities, at a time when their help is most needed, have been left incapacitated, either because they too have been victims of the selfishly or callously calculating members - as in the case of Bernie Madoff - of society, who perpetrated much of what is going on today, or lacking contributions, etc.

According to the IRS charitable organizations:

... are classified as either a public charity or a private foundation. Public charities are those that are churches, hospitals, qualified medical research organizations affiliated with hospitals, schools, colleges and universities, that have an active program of fundraising and receive contributions from many sources, including the general public, governmental agencies, corporations, private foundations or other public charities receive income from the conduct of activities in furtherance of the organization’s exempt purposes, or actively function in a supporting relationship to one or more existing public charities.

Private foundations, in contrast, typically have a single major source of funding (usually gifts from one family or corporation rather than funding from many sources) and most have as their primary activity the making of grants to other charitable organizations and to individuals, rather than the direct operation of charitable programs..
One would think, in an age of instant information, that at the very least, we can rest assured, if we do our homework, that our charitable dollars will not line the pockets of swindlers. Charity watchdogs rate and give an accounting of charities all over the world, so we should feel very secure that our money will be put to good use, right? However, what makes things easier for us also makes things easier for the scammers.

Too many fake charities play the, "take names that are very close to those of reputable, established charities" game. They might change the word 'foundation' to the word 'society' for example.

In addition, there are also no laws requiring that a certain percentage of every donation must go toward the actual cause. Charitable organizations may spend your money on anything from salaries to administrative supplies to festivities and advertising instead of the issue they say they are targeting. Not only that, professional solicitors who raise money for charities are not required to hand over anything but a small percentage of what they raised to the charity itself.
Charities that lend their names to for-profit enterprises are another twist you need to be aware of. The charities figure it's money they wouldn't have gotten otherwise, but donors need to realize that often only a minuscule amount of money makes it to the charity.
All of this adds up to more "homework", more decisions to make, and more time and money that most of us do not think we have, which leaves those who barely have enough to survive, completely stranded. That number is growing exponentially, or will be, soon.

As we are only as strong as our weakest link, funding for low-income and sustainable housing development, infrastructure and social service programs must be top priority.
Our forefathers envisioned a country powered by the diversity and strength of its people. As it is, this country is powered by the uniformity of an elite few.

Our strength lies in the enormous spectrum and interaction of our diverse capabilities. If we lose that and we don't tap into the energy and creativity of the many, innovation will cease to exist.

Guidestar

Charity Navigator

2 comments:

Anonymous,  20:48  

Spoken like a true bleeding heart liberal.

Roth's stepchild 12:11  

Maybe, but "bleeding heart liberal" or not, the future of this country depends on the welfare and well-being of the majority of its inhabitants. If, down the road, most of us are hungry, disease ridden and homeless, we will no longer be the USA as defined by our Founding Fathers. Posterity will judge us as a failed experiment.

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