Charities should pool resources to set example for nation

Greg Cornwell 19 April 2016 8

The Festive and giving season is over and we are into the New Year and its resolutions.

Two happenings now occur. The telephone stops ringing and the post stops delivering appeals from charities. If you listen carefully you can hear 2016 resolutions being broken all over Canberra.

What these two occurrences have in common is that neither has to be unsuccessful, because if our local charities resolved to combine their efforts on behalf of those they want to help the public response could be better and a New Year resolution would be achieved.

Like many people I am tired of telephone calls at inconvenient times seeking a donation and my letter box – despite the No Junk Mail request – is the repository of glossy begging letters.

I know many are not among our 500 licenced ACT charities, a particular source of irritation to some would-be donors, but some are and it seems the ACT could set an example to the rest of Australia by coordinating our charitable efforts. We are, after all, a small compact city/state capable of identifying the problems and recognising what needs to be done. We also have the advantage our charitable personnel know each other.

Apart from the obvious benefits of pooling resources and reducing administration costs our local charities could benefit by selling themselves as a single compassionate unit.

At present we have a disparate and large group of well-meaning organisations who by their very competitiveness through phone and mail campaigns discourage giving and raise suspicions as to where donations go. A situation encouraged by a lack of public accountability. When did you last see a published audited annual balance sheet for a charity to which you donated?

Certain health or social circumstances attract more interest and thus support than other concerns but these also are subject to popular whim, therefore threatening the basis of charity itself and its fundamental purpose.

Nobody reading these comments will be blind to a problem with amalgamating charities no matter how sympathetic to the poor, disadvantaged or health stricken in our society all these well-meaning people are.

Empires. Who is prepared to abdicate? To give up their position?

Yet this reluctance is another reason for suspicion. No matter how many declarations are made about how little is spent upon administration people look at the number of charities and ask how much do they all cost to run?

Could this be a 2016 resolution?

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8 Responses to Charities should pool resources to set example for nation
gazket gazket 5:57 pm 10 Jan 16

9 new charities are registered on average every day.
It’s a $55 billion tax free industry in Australia.
Thats $2,200 each divided by 25million people.

Charity my arse , they hoard the money we give to them.
A wide stiff broom needs to be put through the lot of them.

miz miz 5:15 pm 08 Jan 16

Of late I have become highly concerned about the financial arrangements of charity-operated aged care facilities. The recent experience of a family member was that a place could only be obtained by the sale of the family HOME – which the person and their family did not want to sell – in exchange for [what can only be described as] a tiny, poxy room. Additional fees for daily care are still required on an ongoing basis.
The financial arrangements were so utterly scam-like it has made me seriously question the ethics of the ‘Christian’ charity concerned.

curmudgery curmudgery 5:05 pm 08 Jan 16

Listen, we elect our government to work on our behalf; to do the things that we, as groups or individuals, are unable to arrange let alone agree on. It’s things like balancing the budget, getting on with our neighbours and providing the services and infrastructure that support a decent standard of living. In short, good government.

But the work of every charity gives any government an excuse to perform poorly in some areas of their responsibilities – they can undersupport directly or indirectly any of these charity targets and say “Ah yes, but these targets also get funding and support from [whomever] so the problem is not a failure on our part.”

Bullshit! Charities give government an ‘out’ for not doing properly the things they”ve been elected to do.

Now, look at the charities themselves. Corporate T-shirts in corporate colours, websites, four-colour glossies suggesting their success and your guilt, hard-sell, soft-sell, sweet-young-things who want your credit card details – all tax-free and largely unaccountable.

Well, they can all go to Hell. I would support a modest increase in taxation if it meant that all these alleged ‘charities’ were driven into the sea. I refuse to give them one cent.

Instead, I want capable and responsible government.

If you’ve indulged me thus far, try this as a starter:

I’ll leave the rest to you.

geetee geetee 2:48 pm 07 Jan 16

The charity sector sure needs some looking at. I’ve been saying to mates ‘I told you so’ after the Shane Warne charity ‘scandal’ broke. For years, I’ve been moaning about the fact that seemingly every sports person (and others) sets up their own charity instead of contributing to one that already has its’ own administration and – hopefully – a track record in a very high percentage of donations actually going to the deserving recipients. I’m sure the decision to set up a new charity comes at the direction of accountants and financial advisors rather than the person’s charitable desires.

TrevorHickman TrevorHickman 2:39 pm 07 Jan 16

I sympathise with some of your views as I do think there are too many charities in Australia (about 60,000) of which around 5,000 may not be legitimate.

The Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC) was introduced by the Gillard government to increase regulation in the sector (which generates $55bn per year) but once elected the Abbott Government immediately repealed the Commission as it threatened to shine far too much light on the financial malpractices of catholic charities who had always opposed its formation.

The sector is being obliged to go through some form of consolidation as charities (especially those predominantly government funded ones in health and social welfare) are feeling the pinch from reduced Government grants and some (but not all) of these will force welcome efficiency – in others it will just reduce service to consumers. Certainly unlike a true ‘market-economy’ though the charity sector doesn’t have the same pressures of mergers and acquisitions that exist in the corporate sector.

Similarly I think your argument carries some weight in suggesting that charities (again in the health sphere) have similar PR messages of ‘healthy living’ which applies whether the charity concerns heart, diabetes, mental health etc and ways need to be looked at to make these apply to more than one cause rather than repeating the message for multiple organisations.

I have no idea how a consolidated ACT ‘super-charity’ would work from an appeals basis though. Donors often give because of the impact a charity makes and I’m unclear how this translates to your homogeneous charity scenario. Sure it would reduce the strain on your letterbox from direct mail appeals, but would it really help make the world a better place?

Equally society encourages the GROWTH not consolidation of small businesses because they are seen as hotspots of innovation rather than criticising them for duplication of effort, so why is this different in the charity sector?

Spending on administration is also a complete red-herring and a very naive measure, invented by the media because it is an ‘easy’ measure for how ‘efficient’ a charity is. Personally I would much rather support a charitable organisation which spent 80% on administration if it ultimately meant that they raised more money for their cause against one that only spent 1% on administration but in return was hamstrung in its ability to deliver its actual mission because cost savings restricted it carrying out its business.

Nobody queries whether Apple spends too much on administration before we buy their products so why do we worry so much about charities?

As for saying asking for “a published audited annual balance sheet for a charity to which you donated?” I’d suggest you look at the website where you’ll find the details of 54,000 registered charities and be able to read balance sheets and p&l sheets to your hearts content.

As I say the regulation and control of the market would be much greater (and more efficient) if it were not for a certain over zealous Tony Abbott who often failed to see the division between religion and politics.

wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 7:49 am 06 Jan 16

So how exactly would you make a donation to a conglomerate charity?
“Hmmmm, I think I’ll give a couple of dollars to the wildlife fund, a fiver to the orphans and two more to homeless folks thanks.”
Having one hub for all transactions won’t necessarily make it a better or easier option, just look how well A.C.T shopfronts and the Centerlink office are doing with all the different branches of government under one umbrella. Lengthy waits, people who are clueless about what they are doing. Sure there will be less overheads but at what cost. The inner workings of the business get messed up as it tries to cope with handling all the different demands placed on it. I can imagine rocking up to a charity hub and taking a ticket in the queue so that I can organize sponsorship of a starving child in Africa, only to be asked also if I’d like to contribute to animal welfare and cancer support. How about clothing donations? Can you label your bag with the name of the charity you want it to go to, or just hope it gets divvied up between the three major competitors? I wonder also if there is any conflict of interest between differing charities who might come under the one umbrella.
Personally, I think the whole idea would only eat up more funding than it is supposed to be saving, just in setup and running costs. Combining people into one call center still means you need the same number of people making the calls in order to achieve the same targets, unless of course automated voice recordings are used instead, which I’m sure would see in many more people hanging up.

Alexandra Craig Alexandra Craig 6:32 pm 05 Jan 16

I run a little charity type project – we’re not registered as a tax deductible charity (but we’re working on it) – however we still have regular donors, and none of our donations go to administrative costs. I know that it’s impossible to run a big charity without admin costs, however I always try and support local and small charity as much as I can. I’m on the board of a small scale charity here in Canberra and every dollar received goes directly to the actual purpose of the charity. This charity, and my project, of course have admin costs. We just choose to cover these costs ourselves. You see much more of a result when all the funds go straight to what they’re intended for.

SidneyReilly SidneyReilly 10:37 am 05 Jan 16

Are not Charities just another business with tax advantages and a more needy demographic as clients?
Those running them seem to do very well….

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