“Charity begins at home”, goes the (very) old, somewhat narrow adage. It describes a mindset that I suspect has been especially easy to revert to since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.
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In the wake of the revelations about Lance Armstrong and the impact on Livestrong, Craig Dearden-Phillips writes that charities should stop telling porkies,.
In my experience, the opposite is true; charities are usually punctiliously, scrupulously honest sometimes to a ridiculous and self-sabotaging degree. They tend to want to tell everybody everything about what they do, to ensure that communications are faithfully representative of what the organisation does and to educate the donor about the totality of their work – even the boring bits (though I doubt anyone has ever been educated into supporting any cause).
In my version of the popular Terminator movie franchise, a lethal robotic warrior would go into the past, seek out whoever first uttered the words ‘charity begins at home’ and, well…let’s just say it would be a short movie.
Eleven months ago we left our nonprofit jobs in the U.S. and kicked off an around-the-world trip. Since then, in addition to spending a lot of time asking for directions, we’ve counted whale sharks in the Philippines, collected trash at Everest Base Camp, and delivered books to kids in rural Laos – all in pursuit of our goal to volunteer at least one day each week, no matter where the trip took us.
Are we in a second golden age of philanthropy? Many people think so, particularly in the UK, which has had less of a philanthropy culture than the U.S. Despite the global economic slowdown, the numbers remain pretty impressive, and the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest individuals is also full of the world’s biggest donors.
This week is Student Volunteering Week, and last night I was named Student Volunteer of the Year 2013. I am really humbled by the accolade because volunteering is really just part of life for me. It’s part of my day and who I am. I receive a scholarship to fund my voluntary work from Edge Hill University in Lancashire, where I am in my second year studying Children’s Nursing.
Last year there were just 205 cases of naturally occurring poliovirus, compared with 650 cases in 2011 and a staggering 350,000 a quarter of a century ago.
Bill Gates, delivering the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby lecture last week, claimed polio could be eradicated throughout the world by 2018. That’s if the world supplies “the necessary funds, political commitment, and resolve”.
International aid organisations in the third sector have long been haunted by unfounded fears of accountability and effectiveness, but social media is beginning to break down these barriers by offering on the ground accountability over the internet.
The explosion of smartphone connectivity across Africa means that many more people are now online and able to interact with aid project organisers and volunteers, uploading videos and photos showing exactly how donations are improving living conditions and fighting poverty.
But as well as making visible how charities are aiding third world countries, social media is also helping forge huge networks of volunteers who can continue to maintain a personal connection with the people they support even once they’ve left the country.
Does anyone really believe that giving fell by a whopping 20 per cent last year? I know I don’t. I know of only a handful of charities whose income was challenged in the way that the NCVO suggests, and the evidence from other sources such as the Treasury and nfpSynergy suggests a much more static picture.
While the NCVO might argue that it is largely only the very small charities that have suffered, if the big guns of the sector (who account for 80 per cent of all donations) are reporting static or even marginally increasing levels of giving, then the fall in small charity income must have been pretty catastrophic for a 20 per cent fall to be recorded overall. I see no evidence of that.
When your charity is called People Can it’s rather embarrassing when something doesn’t succeed. The name of the Facebook site that has just been set up by my former staff is People Canned – you’ve got to love their gallows humour.
The dark side of this is that in many ways the name of the charity is perfect for a tale where the people outside of the organisation didn’t, in my view, step up and do the right thing. They didn’t take a risk to protect the vulnerable and didn’t stand by a charity whose central belief is that our talents are worth more than our deficits. People Can revealed that many people just believe that “People Can’t”.