When is it OK to support the middle man?
A few days after the bushfires started in my local community in regional Australia I put some feelers out to find a locally based Non-profit organisation to create a fund for cash donations.
The first reason was a response to the bags and bags and bags of ‘stuff’ I saw at all of my local recovery centres. Stuff that was not likely to be distributed in its entirety for the next decade, stuff that was half used, covered in plastic and otherwise just useless. This is NOT to discount the stellar and generous efforts of the many thousands of people who helped but look — a week into the recovery (or perhaps even less) cash was needed a whole lot more than stuff.
Besides, we are yet to deal with the full ramifications of the stuff, I dread to think how many 600ml plastic water bottles are floating around my community at the moment.
The more pressing reason my thoughts turned to cash donations was that national media had commenced ramping up campaigns to donate cash to large, national charities.
Now, my opinions on large NGOs don’t really count at this time. What does count is getting the largest amount of support to the people that need it most sans the red tape.
There’s been a lot of money in this disaster. In fact, the 2019/20 bushfire season could just be Australia’s biggest ever disaster relief fundraiser generating thus far close to half a billion bucks. (SMH 2020). Think that none of those funds are going to be used to leverage at least some operational component for the organisations? Think again. Of course, they will have additional administrative and delivery burden but show me an NGO Manager who doesn’t know how to fashion revenue in a way to contribute to the sustainability of the organisation and I’ll show you a flying wombat.
While Crowd Funding may appear to be the panacea to this ailment of leakage it’s not always a lot better, in fact “An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) spokesperson said 425 reports of bushfire scams had been received by Scamwatch since September.” ABC (2020). Are these the run of the mill disaster fakers? Not only, there is also a swag of unconscionable scammers have actually established fake accounts raising funds for the families of people having been reported in the media to have perished in the fires.
Still, the numerous (presumably legitimate) crowd funding campaigns have generated well over one million bucks.
There’s a lot of money in disaster.
So which middle men do I feel OK to endorse?
Here’s the guide that I follow to decide:
- Is the organisation based in the community I want to support? (e.g. based meaning have their own bricks and mortar and ideally having occupied the space for some time)
- Is the organisation an Incorporated Association and registered Charity? Search here
- Does the organisation have Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status? (meaning not only does the donation become tax deductible, it also implies a higher level of rigour in account keeping and governance).
- Has the organisation existed for more than 5 years and ideally more? And can I see evidence of their humanitarian work in the community?
- Is the organisation versed in supporting the cause and/or people I want my money to reach?
- Does the organisation have the capacity to tell me what they did with the cash?
- Is the organisation up front with the administrative chunk that will be taken from the donations?
Clearly people are wanting to support this cause. My best suggestion to you — don’t blindly donate, do some research and get as close to the recipient as you possibly can.
Kerry Grace is a community engagement practitioner currently leading a regional development organisation in NSW Australia and managing her own company Evolve Group Network.
Kerry’s work focuses on sustainable small regional communities. She is a strong advocate of people leading the life that matters most (by their own definition), a mum and a big (read obsessed) fan of alpacas whom she adores to watch roaming on her hobby farm in regional NSW, Australia.
Kerry regularly blurts words about leadership, being a mum in business, self-care and adapting for an uncertain future.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.