Fighting Charities Gone Wild

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Orange County is home to some of the worst charities in the nation. How can a charity be bad, you ask, with wide-eyed innocence? The answer is based on the amount charities actually spend on their respective causes relative to how much funding they actually raise. The Association for Police and Sheriffs in Fullerton managed to spend only 4 percent of its funds while the Association for Fire Fighters and Paramedics in Santa Ana spends a mind-blowing 2 percent of its support on the actual cause, according to Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest evaluator of charities.

This event highlights a set of changes that need to occur in the minds of people who wish to make a difference. Providing money to charities is a noble act whose value in some cases cannot be denied, but I am tired of getting judged because I do not fork over a couple bucks every time a sick child, wounded puppy or forgotten veteran is paraded in front of me. These findings highlight the current problems with charities and the people who give them money while demonstrating a need for research and perhaps a change in the nature of donations.

Charities are not the perfect do-good machines many assume them to be. When asked, “Would you like to make a donation to the rainforest?” Many assume that 100 percent of that donation goes toward saving a monkey or some kind of tree factory. Let us assume you donate $100. Well, the person who collected your donation via telephone gets a piece. Next, the accountants who keep track of the money deserve some. The organizers who head the charity have earned a little. Of course, you cannot run a charity from the street, so you need to rent a building. A building means desks and office supplies. By the time all the expenses are removed, they can only have $4 to actually use.

Not all charities have these practices and this discrepancy shows the need to perform research. Many work efficiently using volunteers to perform most of their labor in cheap buildings in order to pass the savings on to their intended causes. Since some charities are productive while others shadily take a majority of your money for themselves, one clearly needs to perform research in order to determine who is out for your wallet.

A quick look on Charity Navigator can help you evaluate whether or not your donation will be used properly. The Web site calculates the ratio of money collected verses money spent on the actual cause and gives a simple star rating to determine whether or not you should donate. General tips and studies are also offered for helping good Samaritans identify the more helpful charities.

If a charity pressures you on the fly, say on Ring Mall, and you are itching to donate, ask questions first. No one has ever said you are not allowed to know what your money will be specifically supporting or how efficiently it will be utilized. Ask them about their practices and goals. If they do not provide the answers, don’t feel bad for not donating.

If you do not or cannot do the research, then there is an even more efficient route. Do something practical to help. Every time a member of Green Peace approaches me and asks me to help the environment, I can say that I have biked to school for over a year and I try to always turn off the lights when I leave a room. If you want to help animals, volunteer at a shelter or adopt a dog instead of buying a new one. Simple steps such as these are guaranteed to help and many of them do not involve the bureaucracy of complex organizations.

Making the world a better place is important on a global scale or even at the neighborhood level, but these acts are useless without responsibility. A majority of the blame rests with the inefficient charities, but the common person can also adopt some simple practices to prevent this waste of resources from occurring. With proper research or practical donations of time and effort, you can focus your resources where they will do the most good and make a difference instead of having almost all of your money consumed by a corporate machine.

Kevin Pease is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at kpease@uci.edu.

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