Charity, Overseas Aid, Volunteering – all worth it or not?

charity dfid volunteers

Tomorrow morning (Sunday) sees the start of the thirty-fourth annual London Marathon. This is a major road race involving world renowned men & women elite athletes, and disabled wheelchair competitors – when records may well indeed be broken. However, its fame isn’t really down to all that is it? No, it really is all about the forty thousand amateur participants who are running the 26 miles 385 yards to raise money for charity. These widely assorted people generally aren’t racers or even runners, but only caring individuals who have persuaded family, friends , acquaintances, and strangers to sponsor them (give money!) for them to attempt to complete the course (or go as far as possible). They will be watched by about three quarters of a million spectators on the River Thames side route together with many millions on television in two hundred countries.

It is a spectacular, not to be missed, event that has already raised over £600million for charity (it is the largest annual fund raising event in the world – about £50million a time: record for an individual is over £2million –he had good friends eh!).

However, it nevertheless begs the question as to how effective is it in general to be donating to charity? The British people are amongst the most caring and generous in the world when it comes to giving. The problem arises though when it becomes clear that often only a fraction of one’s donated money actually ends up with the cause supported, don’t you think? The sweet smiling girl on the street corner with the collecting tin is probably being paid (with your donation). The smart young man signing you up to make monthly payments is paid and possibly on commission as well (paid by your donation). Those at the top running the charities aren’t the do-gooders you might envisage, but hard-nosed, increasingly ‘snout in the trough’ business executives on colossal salaries (paid by your donations of course). Many-many dozens of them raking in over £100,000 in salary (the details are frequently cloaked in secret by the charities): Marie Stopes International (family planning charity) top pay is £290thousand with another at £200thousand: Save the Children pays someone £234thousand, another £163thousand, and a further twenty also over £100thousand: Cancer Research UK (this year’s London Marathon official charity) is said to pay their CEO £220thousand: Oxfam CEO is getting over £120thousand: the dozen overseas aid Disasters Emergency charities themselves with some thirty people on six figure salaries. Are you happy to see your generous donation lining the pockets of the fat-cats?

The apologists for such obscene remunerations point out that these are major cash-cow businesses needing top executives to run them. Therein lays the problem – these massive charity juggernauts are run by people who don’t give a fig for charity nor for the specific cause. Their organisations also spend huge sums from the public’s donations on advertising and television appeals which disproportionately hoover-up massive amounts of the available charity cash (which therefore is never used for the cause itself) – leaving only a few crumbs for all the equally deserving smaller charities run by dedicated non-fat cats.

Overseas Aid is perhaps another thorny problem, don’t you think? Despite thrusting the Country into five years of eye-watering austerity, the Conservative LibDem coalition Government not only continued with Overseas Aid, but illogically increased it from under eight billion to almost twelve billion pounds – the rate of increase resulting in major spend control problems. [New EU accounting rules would add another billion pounds to our bill if we stick with our current commitment to 0.7% GDP]. We are the second largest aid donor in the world and spend more on international agencies than anyone else. Madness?

Anyone who knows anything about counties getting such aid can warn that a high proportion of it gets skimmed off, goes in bribes, and most ends up in the hands of corrupt individuals at the top. The worst thing about these matters is that the billions we generously provide for overseas aid, is passed over to others to administer and we have zero say in how it is spent – very little money is used for projects run by us on the ground. Much of our money is simply handed to the EU to aimlessly squander.

We give some five hundred million pounds annually to Pakistan, despite widespread corruption and endemic non-payment of tax there (even the bulk of their MPs don’t pay a penny). Instead of spending on health and education, Pakistan is committing vast sums on nuclear weapons production and indeed has the fastest growing programme in the world. We still bankroll India with about three hundred million pounds of aid despite the fact that they run a massively expensive space programme (cost at least six hundred million) and indeed they have sent a spaceship off to Mars and plan a manned Moon landing. We even are giving some thirty million pounds of aid, through the Foreign Office & Dfid, to superpower China, notwithstanding that it is the world’s second biggest economy and spends tirelessly on space and defence programmes instead of their impoverished population. Aid is being ongoingly provided to certain counties despite repeated promises to Parliament to pull the plug on a number of these deemed ‘ineligible’ recipients.

Does our money actually then do any good, prove effective, help the poor, or make a significant difference (or even perhaps make things worse)? Is this all not an absurd waste and abuse of our taxpayers’ hard earned cash?

If giving money itself is not an adequately satisfactory answer to helping others, what about Volunteering? The 2012 London Olympics’ success was powered by seventy thousand volunteers, from all kinds of backgrounds, who staffed venues, drove transport, provided assistance, directed visitors, provided first aid, and not least lifted public mood.

Certainly British society couldn’t operate without our millions of volunteers, as they are crucially involved in all walks of life, ranging from the hard graft mundane to the heart-stopping sterling heroic [fundraising, support to the ill, mountain rescue, counselling, meals on wheels, hospital work, driving charity vehicles, sports coaching, YMCA, neighbourhood newspapers, care homes, Scouts, clean up beach and urban litter, foodbanks, animal shelters, lifeboats, carers, Nation Trust, libraries, work with disabled children, museums, DoE, amateur dramatics, CAB, health fairs, Guides, Red Cross, office work for voluntary organisation, carnivals & parades, youth clubs, St John Ambulance, helping the elderly, martial arts classes, run charity races, look after wildlife, charity auctions, help the blind, organise amateur sport, keep the park tidy, coach youth sports teams, provide refreshments at events, staff religious venues, and much else].



[No money is involved in Volunteering so there is nothing to spoil and taint the desire to help others – just time & energy. Sound a better bet to you?]

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