Thursday, April 2, 2020

Donations and Charity

Musings of a Veteran on Donations and Charity

Whenever there is a disaster or crisis – many “disaster relief” funds are created – and people are exhorted to donate liberally to these funds.

For example – in the ongoing Corona Virus Pandemic (COVID-19) – a number of relief funds have been created at national, state and organizational levels – and there are appeals to contribute generously.

Many individuals and organizations contribute money to these funds.

Some donate quietly – while others make a big show of it – in order to gain publicity.

In a bid to win “Brownie Points” – heads of some organizations publicly announce “one day salary” to be cut from all their employees and donated to these funds – and some do this with full PR/Media hype showing them handing over gigantic cheques.

(Of course – ostensibly – these salary-cut donations are supposed to be “voluntary” – but – one really wonders whether the consent of each and every employee is genuinely taken – or – are pressure tactics used…?)

A question that arises in one’s mind is whether the huge funds collected will be properly utilized for the purpose for which they have been collected…?

Will there be proper audit and accountability – and total transparency – or – is there a possibility of misuse, siphoning off of money – or even scams…?

(In the past – one has read news reports of such instances – in which money collected for a certain cause was siphoned off or misused for something else. Even now – in the days of donations by digital online transfers of money – prospective donors are being warned to be careful of online scams by fraudsters)

One wonders whether it is prudent to contribute to these relief funds where one may have no knowledge of exactly how one’s donation is being utilized…?

Or – is it better to make a targeted specific contribution of money or material…?

For example – you may want to help an institution in your town – or – you may want to help some specific people.

Is it not better to give them money directly – instead of donating to a generic relief fund – where they may give your money elsewhere…?

If you want to give specific items/equipment/relief material – is it not better to give it directly to the persons you want to help…?

Do “relief funds” give specific details of how they have spent the funds collected…?

A donor must have some degree of control on how his donation has been utilized – and confirmatory feedback must be given to him that his money has been appropriately spent on the cause for which it was donated.

Do agencies who collect “relief funds” ask the donor how he would like his donation to be utilized and give him confirmatory feedback that his donation has been well spent…?

Or – are relief funds like a “Black Hole” – and you don’t know where your money goes – whether it is actually used for the purpose it is intended for – or does the money get dissipated into administrative expenses…?

If you donate money for a specific cause – shouldn’t you have an assurance that your donation will be well spent on that specific cause…?

Do administrators of relief funds give complete specific details of how they have spent the donations received along with audited balance sheets for the perusal of donors…?

Do they actually spend all the money collected via donations received on the specific purpose for which the fund was created…?

What happens to surplus money collected…?

Is it returned back to the donors in a pro rata manner – or – is it transferred somewhere else…?

Is there total transparency – or – is it all quite nebulous…?

One is confused about how the “relief fund” system operates.

That is why I feel that it is better to give targeted donations of money/items to people/institutions – instead of contributing to a general “relief” fund – where you will never know how your donation has been spent – or whether it has been spent on the purpose for which you gave it. 

Dear Reader: Please comment and let us know your views.

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