Take care if it's a charity
With the holiday season upon us, it is time when we not only think of friends and family but spare a thought for those less fortunate, and give to charity.
Giving to charity isn't science but there are a few things that one should first do.
Firstly, do some research and don't just give to any charity that approaches you in the street. Don't be intimidated by aggressive fundraisers accosting you; just say no. Whenever you give into these tactics, a reputable charity loses out.
The internet is a great tool for finding out about charities.
When it comes to giving money in Victoria, consumer protection isn't great. The reality is that you have more consumer protection when you buy a toaster than when you give to charity in Victoria.
Second, while charities like The Smith Family, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul, Mission Australia, Anglicare, and The Royal Flying Doctors Service will spend your money wisely, don't forget some of those smaller charities operating in your own local community who also do good work during the holiday season.
Third, make a budget and don't overspend. Just as it makes sense not to get carried away buying Christmas presents, it makes sense not to spend more than you can afford giving to charity.
Fourth, try to determine whether the charity is efficient and financially responsible. This is important because most of us like to see as much of our charitable donations go directly to the needy and not be eaten up by administration and fundraising costs, or wasted on political activism and lobbying. Unfortunately, this isn't all that easy. There is no common accounting definitions for terms like administration and fundraising. This means that it is relatively easy for charities to appear 'efficient' by using simple accounting tricks. The lack of common and accepted accounting definitions makes it virtually impossible to meaningfully gauge the relative efficiency of charities across the sector.
One tip for those who really want the largest share of their money to go the needy is to be wary of people approaching you. Ask them if they are employed by the charity, a private fundraising company or are a volunteer. Giving to a volunteer will mean that all of your money goes to the charity. Giving to a person employed by a private fundraising company will mean that a large chunk of what you give will be taken by the fundraiser, which is why some charities refuse to use them.
The Herald Sun has already reported on these professional face-to-face fundraisers, known in England as charity muggers, now an all-too-common presence on the streets of Melbourne. Ask them how much money they make.
Never agree to sign up on the spot or hand over your credit card details. Ask for literature and take it home and think about it. Remember, a reputable charity won't care if you sign up immediately or take a day to think about it. Besides, if you contact the charity directly you can avoid having your valuable charitable dollar from being eaten up by private fundraising companies.
Fifth, be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on detail about how they will address the problem. Find out specifically what the charity is planning to do with the money.
Sixth, besides money, clothes, toys and foodstuffs are always in demand at this time of year and make valuable contributions. The only thing to remember is not to use charities as a dumping ground for things that really belong in the rubbish bin.
Finally, if you have some spare time, why not volunteer? The holiday season is a time when charities are usually stretched and a lot of charities would welcome any additional help. Volunteers are the backbone of the charity sector.