Can we ever really trust charities?

I’ve heard some terrible stories of money given to help those in need being diverted and misused. I’ve heard of people traveling overseas to see projects they’ve funded only to find that those projects don’t really exist.

Thankfully, most organisations that are set up to make a real difference in this world are honest and are doing good work, but the question remains, how do we know who we can really trust? Do we simply give up and refuse to donate or is there a better way?

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator which works to inform those of us who want to help others but need to know if the money we give is actually doing what it should be doing. They check the financial health, accountability and transparency of 7,500 charities. Those put under the microscope range from faith based and secular agencies working in developing countries to organisations working within the U.S. for causes like fighting cancer through to a foundation giving grants to shooting sports. They’ve just released their 13th annual research findings.

As someone who works for Compassion, I’m more than happy to be able to point people to independent evaluations of our work. I know that what we do is making a huge difference because I’ve seen it first hand, but being able to say to people, “Don’t just take my word for it” is extremely important. It’s good to see that Compassion has once again found itself at the top of the ratings.

For the 13th consecutive year, Compassion International has earned the highest rating for U.S. charities from Charity Navigator—the nation’s largest charity evaluator. The 4-out-of-4 stars rating places Compassion International in the top one-percent of non-profits reviewed by Charity Navigator. – PR Web

Wow. Once again Compassion is in the top 1% of the 7,500 charities that were reviewed. As you can imagine, that gives me extreme confidence when I talk to friends, supporters, pastors and churches about how Compassion truly is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Charity Navigator’s Vice President Sandra Miniutti explains a little of what that actually means for those looking for an effective way of helping those in need of our help.

“Receiving a consistently ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator indicates that Compassion International out performs most other charities in America,” said Charity Navigator Vice President Sandra Miniutti.“Less than a dozen of the 7,500 charities we rate have received 13 consecutive 4-star evaluations and Compassion International is the only international charity to receive this distinction. Compassion International’s staff, board and supporters should be proud of its ability to consistently execute its mission in a fiscally responsible and ethical way.” – PR Web

I work for Compassion because I am convinced that there is no more effective organisation serving the world’s poor. I have seen no other method of working with those in poverty that even comes close to the way that Compassion is working.

That’s not the marketing spin of someone who works for the organisation, it’s the heartfelt conviction of someone who has seen the light streaming in to some very dark corners of this world and wants to be part of seeing more light and hope filling the lives of those around the world who are the poorest of the poor.

“Financial integrity is of vital importance to Compassion International,” said Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, president and CEO of Compassion International. “Our entire ministry model is built around trust. The families of the children we serve trust that we will care for and minister to them; our sponsors and donors trust we will spend their dollars wisely in pursuit of that ministry. We trust our global network of local churches to deliver Compassion’s holistic child development program, and we have complete trust in God to bless and multiply our efforts as we advocate for some of the poorest children in the world.” – PR Web

If you are keen to see the end of extreme poverty, can I encourage you to do the research and find an organisation you can trust to do the job they promise to do. For me, the results are in and they point directly to Compassion. If you want to find out more about what Compassion does, just head to the website.

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Pedal it Forward

Jordan and Joel

Jordan Strahan and Joel Stephens are getting ready to cycle almost fifteen thousand kilometres around Australia under the banner of Pedal it Forward.

Their aim is to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief which is a charity dedicated to providing access to bicycles to a range of people in developing countries. The humble bicycle can provide an enormous leap in work productivity, access to healthcare, education and economic development.

World Bicycle Relief is a nonprofit organization transforming individuals and their communities through The Power of Bicycles.

Compared to walking, bicycles represent an enormous leap in productivity and access to healthcare, education and economic opportunities. The simple, sustainable nature of bicycles empowers individuals, their families and their communities.

To accomplish our mission we:

DESIGN, SOURCE & MANUFACTURE rugged bicycles engineered specifically for rural African terrain and load requirements

ASSEMBLE bicycles locally with proper tools and close attention to quality

DELIVER bicycles through Work-to-Own & Study-to-Own programs

ESTABLISH maintenance infrastructure by training local field mechanics

EVALUATE our work through independent studies

COMMUNICATE program results to donors and partners

Jordan and Joel joined me in the studio this morning during my radio program to tell me more about their epic adventure. You can click the play button on the audio player below to listen to our conversation.

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Give it away

aussie_money.jpgWhat are you prepared to give away? I guess that depends on what you truly value – not what you say you value – but what you really do value.

An Australian academic has just made a pledge to give away half of his lifetime earnings. Dr Toby Ord reckons that his days as a student weren’t too bad so he’s going to continue living like a student so that his money can help make the world a better place.

Dr Toby Ord, a 30-year-old ethics researcher with the Future of Humanity Institute, has agreed to give up 10 per cent of his annual salary, plus any yearly earnings above £20,000 (AUD $35,631).

Dr Ord says if he lives like a student, he should be able to give away around £1 million (AUD $1.78 million).

“My student years were not extravagant, but were immensely enjoyable, with the chief enjoyments such as reading beautiful books and spending time with my wife and friends costing almost nothing,” Dr Ord said. –

That’s a tough act to follow but it really does raise the question for each of us of what we are seeking in life. Are we seeking better relationships and simple pleasures or do we still run after material goods? We might say that money doesn’t buy happiness but do our lives back that up?

I love the fact that Dr Ord has picked up on the fact that the things that give him the most pleasure and give life greater meaning are not things that money can buy. I do wonder why so many of us keep chasing things that we know will never make us happy when the opportunity to enhance our lives and the lives of those we love are already within our grasp.

I need to be honest and say that I couldn’t give away half my yearly earnings. I’m not on an academic’s wage. In fact, my wage looks very much closer to the amount that Dr Ord has agreed to restrict himself to using each year. Out of that money our family supports a number of worthwhile causes yet I have to keep asking myself, should I be doing more? Our standard of living is still extremely extravagant compared to those I’ve seen in places like India, Haiti and Dominican Republic.

The good news is Dr Ord doesn’t expect us all to cut our earnings in half. He’s launching a site called Giving What We Can, encouraging us all to examine what we can be doing to alleviate the suffering of others in our world.

One of the great things about giving money away is the freedom that it gives. It says that my money doesn’t control me – I control my money.

If you do decide that you need to use the resources you’ve been given to create a better life for others there are many organisations doing great work around the world. Let me encourage you to check out Compassion. I’ve seen their work first hand and I seen the proof that the money donors give makes a world of difference. You can visit Compassion Australia or the Compassion International site.

So what do you really value? Think about what truly matters to you, examine the way you’re living, and see if the two match. It’s a challenge we all need to face.

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Charity with Soul Steps Forward to Claim Shoes

shoes_1.jpgIf you’ve read this blog in the past you probably know that I visited Haiti last year and saw the desperate conditions under which so many are living. You may have also read my previous post talking about Soles4Souls , a wonderful organisation that provides shoes for those in need around the world.

Today I heard that Soles4Souls has stepped forward to collect the thousands of shoes mysteriously dumped on a Miami highway. They’ll then send them to the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Great news.

The start of the New Year turned ugly for many commuters in Miami on Friday, when drivers were delayed by several thousand pairs of shoes littering the highway. Nashville-based shoe charity Soles4Souls contacted the Florida Highway Patrol and offered to immediately collect the shoes on behalf of needy people it supports, both here in the United States and around the world.

“These shoes are abandoned property and we’re happy that Soles4Souls can make good use out them,” said Lt. Pat Santengelo of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Soles4Souls Founder and CEO, Wayne Elsey, said the sight of thousands of abandoned shoes was a stark reminder of how many shoes are tossed into American landfills. “Too many perfectly good shoes are thrown away each year, and it’s a shame,” he said. “Soles4Souls is dedicated to keeping usable footwear out of our landfills and putting them on the feet of needy people around the world,” he said.

Some great news to start the year.

If you want to help Soles4Souls in their great work you can visit their website and donate directly.

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Charity a drag on society

Is giving to charity a waste of money?

If you believe the details of the Sydney Morning Herald article, Harvey: Charity not so sweet, Billionaire Gerry Harvey thinks that those who benefit from charity donations are often just a bunch of no-hopers. I need to say right up front that a short article like that one possibly doesn’t represent his views entirely but he is quoted as saying some interesting things.

Asked in a new book about the role he and Harvey Norman play in the community, Mr Harvey said giving money to people who “are not putting anything back into the community” is like “helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason”.

Does he have a point? Are we wasting our hard earned dollars by giving to those who can’t repay society in any way? Should we be expecting a return when we give or do we give for other reasons completely?

He said he believed in helping “develop people to their potential” because “when they achieve [their potential] they will put a lot more back into the community”.

“You could go out and give a million dollars to a charity tomorrow to help the homeless. You could argue that it is just wasted. They are not putting anything back into the community.

“It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing? You are helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason. They are just a drag on the whole community.

“So did that million you gave them help? It helped to keep them alive but did it help our society? No. Society might have been better off without them but we are supposed to look after the disadvantaged and so we do it. But it doesn’t help the society.”

So according to that thinking, people don’t really deserve to live if they’re not contributing to the greater good. Unless they’re ‘putting back’ they’re just a drag on society and we’d be better off without them.

The strange thing is, his retail business, Harvey Norman, does contribute to charity and earlier this year Harvey Norman donated beds to Bridge Back to Life, a charity helping homeless men find rental accommodation. So is the company being charity minded or simply doing something that is expected of big business?

In some ways I agree with Gerry. I think that we need to be very wise with the money we give to those in need. We need to ensure that we’re not just encouraging people to always expect a hand-out rather than helping them to take steps to get back on their feet.

On the other hand, if the article is a true reflection of Mr Harvey’s thoughts, our understanding of helping those less fortunate is very different in many ways. Giving to others without thought of return is part of what makes us human. Compassion is an essential part of human life. Giving to those who have no capacity to return that gift to society in any way actually does push society forward. It shows that we care not just for what a person does or offers but because each person is intrinsically valuable, whether they ever reach their ‘potential’ or not.

Do we turn our back on those who are disabled simply because we can’t see the ways that they benefit society? People with disabilities are valuable members of our community and it is right that we not only help them whenever we can but that we strive to learn from them.

Do we refuse to give money to those living in desperate poverty in developing countries because we can’t see how our little corner of the world will benefit from such a gesture? Is saving a life itself not enough incentive to give?

Yes, we need to decide wisely when giving our money away but we can’t only give based on what return we might see.

I understand that men like Gerry Harvey have worked hard to earn their millions and that it can be difficult for some to see why they should give that hard earned cash away to those who haven’t earned it, but let’s face it, being born in a western country full of opportunities, rather than is a third world slum is not something in which any of us had a choice. If we’re born into a place like Australia or America or the UK we’re already a long way ahead of people in many other countries. Yes, we might have made the most of opportunities but we didn’t deserve to be born in a rich country any more than someone else deserved to be born in a poor one.

I’ve been given so much in this life that I don’t deserve and can never pay back in any way. I know what it is to receive what I don’t deserve. It’s out of that that I must find the compassion to help others, whether they deserve it or not.

The article ends with an interesting insight into Gerry Harvey.

In the interview, Mr Harvey also said that despite his wealth, “I still have a fear about going broke. I always think about it.”

Imagine having 1.6 billion dollars and still worrying constantly about losing it all. Maybe if he got used to giving more of his wealth away, money, and the thought of losing it, wouldn’t have such a hold on him.

Our family doesn’t have a lot of money compared with many others in Australia but compared to most people in the world we’re rich, filthy rich. We have been richly blessed and it’s out honour to be able to give some of those riches away. Life is about so much more than money and productivity. Aside from our financial wealth we have a lifestyle full of love, family and spiritual riches. Even if we lost everything materially, we’d still be obscenely rich in so many ways.

Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? Mark 8 : 35-37 – The Message

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