Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Brothers in alms

Like so many things in my life, my relationship towards charity has been haphazard and characterised by chance rather than anything that might resemble a "plan". Rennes was awkward for me, as it put me face to face more directly with poverty, and a culture with a much greater culture of "direct" charity (less euphemistically called "begging"). It's possible, though, that being confronted in that way made me more conscious about giving, and I think since returning to Australia I've become more conscientious about it. The other factor influencing my increased philanthropy, of course, has been the continuing spate of charity-supported sporting events in which I or those close to me have participated. I know some people who aren't big fans, but I think they're probably pretty constructive in terms of stimulating donations and awareness for different causes. They've certainly had a significant effect on broadening my awareness and engagement.

Anyway, this year I resolved to be a bit more systematic about my donations. One of the contributing factors was a very vague awareness of a commitment (which I can't find) of developed countries to increase their foreign aid budgets. I remember the target being 1%, but I can't say of what, and I can't find any reference to it, so its possible I'm wrong. Regardless, I felt like as someone who is fairly well off by any reasonable measure, I should be prepared to make a comparable commitment, and that 1% of my income was a reasonable target to aim for. It turns out other people have the same idea, although I only found that site while looking for the foreign aid one.

So, without further ado, these are the charities to which I have donated this year.
  • Red Cross Australia: In the past I've given to their specific event appeals (Haiti, Victorian Bushfires, etc). This year I gave to the Pakistan Flood appeal, and to their general Australian fund.
  • Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal: I wasn't personally affected by the dramatic Queensland floods and cyclone Yasi, but I had very strong links to both. I was in Brisbane during the floods and helped with the cleanup, and I grew up in Innisfail and went through cyclone Winifred (a pale imitation of Yasi).
  • Movember: I participated in this a few years ago, and if I have a friend doing it, I donate to their effort. If not, I donate generally - prostate cancer and depression are good causes, and I reckon Movember has been effective at involving in charity people who might not otherwise pay attention.
  • Oxfam: Although I like Oxfam's mission, and I have donated to them in the past, I am sometimes sceptical about some of their publicity. This donation was to Meg's team doing the Trailwalker in Brisbane.
  • Salvation Army: The Salvos are probably the most visible social charity in Australia (for me, anyway). In the past I've donated to them through some sporting events, this year it was through their general appeal.
  • Heart Foundation: The Heart Foundation are one of the more important community health charities, and becoming more so with changes in our lifestyles. I often donate to them through sports appeals, but this year it was through the general appeal.
  • UNICEF: International Children's charity. This year was the first time I've donated to them, on Lee's recommendation.
  • Kidney Foundation: I know someone who's life was extended through a kidney transplant, and in the past I've donated through their barbeques, but this year I donated through the general fund.
  • Fred Hollows Foundation: Eye care in Australia's remote communities and abroad. This was the first year I've donated, on Mum's recommendation.
  • Endeavour Foundation: Disabled service group. We used to donate clothes and things when we were in Innisfail. I know their CEO.
  • Cancer Council Australia: I donated to these guys because they are the supported charity for the half-marathon I'm doing in August. I recognise the name through sun protection advertising, I think.
This list will no doubt change next year. Some of the change will be for silly reasons. Charities that send me unnecessary or excessive mail or gifts, for example, won't be looked upon kindly. I am giving money in order that the charities use it to do good, not that they use it to make me feel good - for me, that comes with the act of donating. Some of the change will be for better reasons. I would like to donate more to charities working closer to my field (Engineers Without Borders might be a candidate, but I was underwhelmed with the material on their website; another possibility would be something to do with education or literacy), or in areas that have meaning to me (something in the Solomon Islands perhaps). If you're reading this and you want to recommend a charity, add a comment or send me an email.

EDIT: Added National Breast Cancer Foundation (Steve's half-marathon) and MS Society (Paul's bike ride)


Kerry Raymond said...

For international, I like organisations like Kiva & UnitedProsperity which are micro-lenders, i.e. your money comes back (eventually) and can be recycled or not as you prefer. In the "Hand up" rather than "Hand out" category. For the crisis situations (tsunamis etc), I tend to favour Red Cross.

Domestically I find by the time Idonate to all the causes that your friends/family/friends are running, biking, and otherwise fund-raising for, my charity dollar is well and truly spent! I am a sucker for Endeavour and BoysTown Art Union tickets (the dream home I never win). I usually succumb to annual appeals from the Salvos, Lifeline and RSPCA (because I can see all of them out there actually doing something worthwhile in the community). I am completely leery of anything that is a government-administered charity (like the Premiers Flood Appeal as my observation is that the money is mis-spent) and it's better to support some more grassroots initiative.

Sally said...

Have a look at http://www.thelifeyoucansave.com/ which relates to our own Australian philosopher Peter Singer and his book of the same name.

Sally said...

I like Opportunity International as an Australian microfinance charity working in our region. I don't have to exchange to US dollars to support them. I heard founder David Bussau interviewed on radio about his life. www.opportunity.org.au

Lee said...

You should know by now that I know all the government's secrets. Overseas development assistance is increasing each year to meet a target of 0.5% of Gross National Income by 2015. The current dollar amount is well over $4bn per annum.

mo** said...

MSF!? :)