Buy A Goat

With the holidays behind us, and a toy chest full of booty, it is now time to reflect on how well we helped others. I donate to charities throughout the year, but at Christmas time I feel especially obligated to give a little more. For many years I have sent medicines to clinics in remote locales around the world, however, this year I did a little investigating into how beneficial my contribution really has been.

Canadians contribute close to 15 billion dollars in charitable donations annually, which is quite fantastic when you think about how selfish many of us can be. I wanted to do more than my usual share, but was quite surprised at some of the things I learned about charities. Now, there are many different ways to look at the numbers, but according to Stats Canada there are about 80,000 charities and, if you include nonprofits the number skyrockets to 165,000. If you really want to see some staggering numbers add in all the 'good cause' car washes, chocolate bar sales and neighbourhood fundraisers and the number climbs to just shy of a million.

So which one should I choose? Or, perhaps, should I start my own? Probably not a good idea. Like most of us I’m moved by the television ads showing the emaciated, seemingly orphaned children with flies buzzing around their heads, or the leper-riddled humans whose families have disowned them. I find it impossible to watch those ads and not feel guilty with tear-filled eyes. Now, practically I realize that marketing to our emotions plays an important role in getting results, but that does not take away from the reality of the need.

So, what do I do? Do I buy a goat? Do I spend $35 to curtail leprosy? Do I sponsor a child? Or, when I see all the destruction in the world is there any point, at all? Well fortunately I have not reached a level of cynicism where I can be that callous, so I must find a worthwhile cause that will satisfy my inner emotions and go on with life, believing I have done the right thing.

I contemplated buying charity lottery tickets, but felt guilty at the thought of personal gain under an umbrella of goodwill. Then I watched a W-5 program which explained that about 25% (give or take) reaches the actual cause. Canada's largest charity claims that the cost to raise $100 is only $17, but apparently that does not include another 30+ percent of admin costs. Reportedly, one of the most efficient charitable organizations is the Salvation Army, where more than 80% goes to the cause and the person in charge collects less than $20K per year.

In actual fact this year's decision was easy. I have two friends who have taken the bull by the horns. One is a doctor who recently returned from the Philippines and has set up a way to ensure donations go directly to the people in need. Another is a person who has established an orphanage in Mexico and pays all the costs himself.

In short, you have to do what is right and just in your own mind, but a little investigation will go a long way in ensuring that you get the best value for your dollar. The world, outside of our little kingdom, is not a happy place for the majority of its inhabitants and if we can do a little to help ease the burden of people suffering we owe it to ourselves to do so. Charity begins at home, so go home, get out your piggy bank and give it a smash.

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