Frost loses the plot.
My calm was disturbed a bit by Hawthorn losing three in a row.
But nothing prepared me for Dame Phyllis Frost’s odd opinions in today’s Herald Sun.
The sub-heading read, “Dame Phyllis Frost says some big charities are too greedy--and the poor may be missing out.”
She worries about competition and growth. And accuses big charities of causing the struggles of smaller charities.
I take the view that the opposite occurs. The better the big charities do, the better the little ones do.
She attacks professionalism, even accusing some charities of “extracting a healthy commission from every dollar they help to raise.”
Such a practice is against the Institute of Fundraising Ethics, and not practiced by World Vision or most agencies. Indeed, I only know of one agency that does this. And it is a small one, not a big one.
She suggests that there is a “disturbing tendency” for agencies to misrepresent the poor. Again, the opposite is true. The trend is for more honesty and more context in advertising and promotion.
She also thinks charities should be audited by the government. Well, it is easy to agree that we should all be audited. If the government were to do it, I would want our own independent auditors to check their work. Governments cannot do accounting nearly as well as we can.
Dame Phyllis Frost is worried that some charitable groups are getting too big.
She should worry that they are so small.
It’s about time we started worrying about why there is so little money available for works of compassion.
What this country needs is not fewer big charities, but fewer small ones. And I don’t mean that we should put small charities out of business. We should simply make them bigger.
We need a half dozen charities the size of BHP. Then the world might be a better place.
Let’s worry about the right things.
The statistics of poverty are well known, but ignored. More than a million children under five die of diarrhoea every year because they do not have enough water for washing.
A few small agencies, like World Vision, Red Cross and Care, and a few tiny agencies like TEAR, and Community Aid Abroad, try to do something about such daunting statistics.
Yet the problem of unclean water is relatively easy for the world to solve.
World Vision would gladly go out of business if the world only got serious about dealing with world poverty.
Never before in human history has there been less excuse for the fact that communities don't have clean water, that children die of easily cured diseases, that tens of thousands of kids will die today and tomorrow and every day simply because they get diarrhoea. The world has the capability and the resources to fix world poverty by the year 2000. It only needs to want to do it.
Trouble is, some people don’t want to get really serious about dealing with the poor. Too many see charity as discretionary, or second-rate.
Our government sends a sliver of our national wealth overseas as foreign aid.
The world community agreed that justice for the poor in the Third World would be represented by the rich nations sending 0.7% of our annual national income. This represented the minimum for justice.
Australia, and most countries in the world, have never come close. This year, despite Evans’ and Bilney’s “best efforts”, we shall plunge to a new low of selfishness. Our foreign aid will represent half-justice for the poor overseas.
Even so, the allegedly “big charities” will raise from the general public not much more than ten percent of what the government will send itself.
World Vision’s contribution of a few tens of millions will do a lot of good for a lot of people. Of that there is no doubt. Hundreds of Australians from all walks of life can attest to that.
But compared to the need it is a drop in the ocean.
That’s why World Vision is serious and professional. Because we think that saving lives happens to be important. We take it seriously. It would not be Christian, nor human, to do less.
Maybe Charity is the most important business in the world.
If we can justify employing well qualified and well trained people to make and market washing machines, how much more can we justify employing such people to bring water to thirsty people in the Jordanian desert?
If we can justify using modern, efficient, computerised business systems to control the transactions that ensure my electricity bill is paid, how much more can we justify using such systems to accept, keep track of, and deliver a donor's gift of charity?
If we can justify building plain-vanilla concrete offices in the suburbs for a company that produces computers and calculators, how much more can we justify the same economies to account for the gifts, and provide programs of compassion, community education and advocacy on behalf of the poor?
If we can justify involving the latest management thinking on excellence, strategic planning, goal setting and budgeting in a company which produces chocolate, how much more can we justify involving the same processes in a company which produces transformation in the lives of supporters and the poor?
Let us dispel this myth that Australia’s charities are too large.
They are not too large. They are too small.
There are not too many. There are too few. And too few big ones.