Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Charities Already Are Transparent...Maybe You're Just Not Looking?

You might think charities are hiding something. The ongoing CRC scandal, Comic Relief's unethical investments, responses from politicians, countless people (including me) crying out "Charities need to be more transparent!"

But actually, some charities need to be more transparent. Some already are. And it's easy to see why the organisations that already publish their accounts and salaries and effectiveness are getting frustrated that they're being called on to do something that they already do.

Don't us donors have to take some, if not more, responsibility? If charities like the CRC don't publish their accounts and we still donate to them then aren't we perpetuating the problem?

When I think back to the charities I've donated to this year I can say that, personally, I'm confident that my money is being spent as well as possible.

I'm proud to donate to Concern Worldwide. They publish their accounts with more detail than is required. For the fourth successive year they won the Published Accounts Awards for charities in Ireland. They keep me updated with videos, photos and more information than I can keep up with. I've e-mailed them twice in the last year with questions - they responded quickly and thoroughly.

Dogs Trust also publish their accounts. And they have a re-homing centre out in Finglas where I can physically go and actually see their happy dogs. They have a running counter on the wall which tells me how many dogs have been re-homed this year.

Whenever children's rights are in the news I know Fergus Finlay will be there in the front row speaking and campaigning of behalf of the children that we treat so badly. The internet's auto-response to Fergus is, "Yeah, but how much does he earn?" which annoys me massively because he tells us exactly how much he earns about 4 times a year. Seriously everyone, stop asking the comments section on news sites and ask Google or Barnardos' own accounts. They are extremely transparent.

The two children I sponsor keep me updated with actual letters and drawings and for me that's good enough to instill confidence. But the charities also adhere to a number of codes of practice above and beyond what I'd expect. And I know what their CEO earns because they publish it.

I donated to Bothar for (I think) the first time. Their website tells me (-ish) what their CEO earns, they publish accounts, they have a feedback/complaint procedure, a donor charter and more. And more importantly, based on the available information, they are improving my world. [Updated: their CEO made completely the wrong move on the radio the other day - criticising the CRC and then not willing to say how much he earns. Shame really, when we already know he earns less than €100k]

I also donated to about half a dozen other charities because I liked the fundraisers, I'm researching the charity's donor communications, or as a result of my Twitter experiment. That's totally the wrong reason to donate and really - since I didn't do any research or ask any questions - I don't have any expectations beyond the fact that they're operating legally.

And finally, (this may surprise you) I also donate to the Central Remedial Clinic. Kind of. Like the majority of people who donate to the CRC I actually enter a monthly raffle to win a car. I really want that car. If any of the money helps people in need then that's a bonus. But let's be honest...I want a car.

I flippantly compared it to the Lotto, but was then shocked to find that the National Lottery are amazingly transparent. Honestly, a number of charities could learn a lot from the Lotto's annual report. I'm seriously considering switching my CRC 'donation' to a lotto 'donation'.

The point is that we, as donors, have to take at least some of the responsibility. The HSE funding is a problem too and again we have to take some of the responsibility for the government we voted in.

The lesson...if it wasn't already obvious...is to find out the answers to what concerns you before you donate. If a charity doesn't put their accounts on their website then why are you donating to them? If you phone/e-mail and ask a question that they won't answer then go find someone who will.

Donating is like investing in a business. When you are donating to a charity you are investing in a better world for yourself, investing in people trying to do good, and investing in people who need a little support to achieve basic human (and non-human) rights.

Would you invest in a company without researching simply because someone asked you to?

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