Town Square

Donation Frustration

Original post made by Cindy Cross, Parkside, on Apr 28, 2011

America is one of the most generous countries in the world. According to an authority on organized philanthropy, America gave $303.75 Billion to charities in 2009. But since the decline in the economy, charities have averaged an 11% drop in donations.
The recession has forced many American’s to buckle down and spend their money more wisely. Many are hard pressed to donate when they feel they could use help themselves.
But are American’s being taken advantage of when it comes to charities?
We see charities asking for money everywhere: TV commercials, billboards, newspapers, bus stops, grocery stores, in schools and people knocking on our doors late at night.
Sure—most of us wish we could do more to help, but at who’s expense?
In a perfect world if we gave $100 to a charity, we would like to see 100% going directly to the benefactors of the charity in question. But realistically the charity has to pay for expenses, overhead, administrative costs, and fundraising. How does one find out exactly what percentage a charity spends on its programs?
According to Jon Krakauer in his short story Three Cups of Deceit, the charity Central Asia Institute (CAI) is an example of a charity that uses very little of its contributions building schools in Afghanistan—which is the mission of CAI. In 2008, its tax form showed it took in $13.1 million in contributions, but spent over $5 million on expenses. Millions of dollars poured into the CAI after the founder, Greg Mortensen published the New York Times best-selling novel Three Cups of Tea. Several people have come forward stating that many parts of Mortensen’s book are outright lies.
Krakauer donated $75,000 and President Obama gave the CAI $100,000 from the $1.4 million he received from winning the Nobel Peace Prize. After hearing from former board members that the CAI was being run like a “personal ATM machine for Greg Mortensen,” Krakauer did some digging into the charity and decided to ‘out’ the organization with his short story, and also in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes.
The watch-dog group American Institute of Philanthropy ( researches charities and rates them A thru F. The higher the dollar amount spent on the charitable program, the higher the rating. Two examples of ‘A’ rated charities are the Boy Scouts of America and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research.
On a side note, the Central Asia Institute received a rating of “?” from the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) since no one would respond to questions posed by AIP representatives.
Americans are smart, giving people. But the Bernie Madoffs of the world are just waiting to take advantage of our generosity. We need to be wiser to make sure that the money we give is money well spent.


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Posted by latebird
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 29, 2011 at 12:38 am

I assume you are blogging here as part of a high school senior year assignment/project, and I wish you the very best in your endeavors.

Your teacher will probably mention this, but for now I'd strongly recommend you take the trouble to consult a style manual or two. Also, George Orwell has a famous essay on how to write clearly and simply. (Sorry I don't have the citation in front of me -- I imagine you can google it easily enough.)

I've noticed here and several other places in your blog/posts that you seem not to know how to use contractions. For example, your 2nd paragraph and again your 3rd paragraph -- American's, and your fifth paragraph -- who's. Both should read Americans, not American's; and it should read whose, not who's.

You may not think your abuse of contractions is such a huge deal, but I think it is. In my own past work as editor, I've seen 'blind' reviewers categorically reject excellent 25+ page essays that had been submitted for publication merely because an author had misspelled a couple of words. I've known newspaper and magazine editors who do not read beyond any spelling error or egregious grammatical error they encounter. Beyond this sometimes 'pinched' attitude of editors, there is the belief that bad style -- e.g., abuse of contractions -- will necessarily undermine a writer's credibility with some readers; for some readers may interpret the abuse as either (1) an indicator of bad writing (and hence sloppy thought) or (2) an indicator of a writer's carelessness, and so, as the reasoning goes, if the writer doesn't care enough to make certain his or her writing errors get cleaned up, why should anyone care enough to read them?

Finally, and I think no less important, if you have ambitions to blog seriously in a way that garners some recognition (fame and money!), you might consider one or two things. One is to actually pose an argument that gets readers' attention. I notice you may not be comfortable doing this. But if instead you choose to frame your blogs in terms of setting up issues for others to argue, you might consider framing the issue more clearly. In your above blog, I'm not sure whether you want to spur discussion about recession = less donations or corruption = less donations. These are, I think, quite distinct, and without delineating them clearly, readers/contributors may show no inclination to weigh in.

Also, you might better assist the readers by giving them more information. For example, you cite how Americans gave 303 billion to charities in 2009, which is a nice piece of information; but you might also have cited, say, where this stands in relation to citizens' donations in other countries. I offer this because 303 billion does sound like an awful lot, but I suspect it isn't all that much relative to what other citizens give in other countries. A few years back, after the devastating tsunami hit Malaysia, I was floored to learn that citizens of both Germany and Australia gave more in charitable donations (in real money) to the victims than did citizens of America, despite the emphasis on Americans' charitable spirit that was being underscored by the mainstream media for days on end. Moreover, I also read that nearly 80% of the pledged donations to victims of the tsunami was never received (and this included pledges from governments as well as individuals and organizations!). At any rate, I'm suggesting here that you fill in your blogs with a fuller set of data: doing so will help readers and give you more legitimacy as a serious blogger.

Like I say, your teacher will probably tell you these things, and then some! But since you've decided to blog here, I thought I'd offer a recommendation or two. All best to you.

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Posted by Chris
a resident of Amador Estates
on Apr 29, 2011 at 6:59 am

If you research socialist countries, "charitable giving" by citizens directly is close to zero. That is because they've been taxed so much that they cannot give anymore and further, they believe their government will pick and choose which organizations to support.

Since Obama, McNerney and the rest of the Washington Democrats are succeeding in transforming America into a socialist country, do not expect our charitable giving on behalf of the citizens to increase.

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Posted by another opinion
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2011 at 9:57 am

yes, cindy, i think latebird's suggestions are good ones. i especially liked the suggestion that you look at donation trends in other countries. a look at democratic socialist countries might also provide some interesting perspective. since democratic socialist welfare state are assigned the task of ensuring a minimal level of security for all its citizens, there probably isn't nearly the perceived need to contribute to charity as there is in a nation such as ours which is beset by widespread poverty, malnourished kids, and untreated illnesses. (see, for example, the staggeringly high infant mortality rate in u.s.) still, i'd bet, given the enlightened attitude of democratic socialist citizens, that they give at a fairly high rate. (apologies for lack of caps; my pinkies are acting up this morning.)

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Apr 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm

On the subject of good editing, what always bothers me is writers who abuse readers by placing half of their text in parentheses.

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Posted by Julia Bergman
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Within the next day or two a special edition of Journey of Hope will be mailed to Central Asia Institute donors, and to schools and organizations that have participated in the Pennies for Peace program. It will refute all of the allegations and accusations made by Jon Krakauer and 60 Minutes.

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Posted by TriValley REACH
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 7, 2011 at 8:16 am

TriValley REACH
Web Link

REACH for Special Adults of the TriValley is an all volunteer 501(c)3 non profit.

REACH is a local grassroots organization with no paid staff. Overhead is very low and covered by the low income rents collected from special needs residents of our 9 TriValley properties.

Every dollar donated stays in the TriValley and benefits our special needs population directly.