When this was being discussed, it struck me that this really is a key feature of giving. If we boil it down, we will usually make our decisions based on emotion, images and compelling narrative, rather than cold hard facts. And there is no better proponent of this that the President Elect, but let’s not think about his charitable donations.
Locally, it has been a curious old week with numerous cases where I have explored the concept. Looking at the news:
A full page ad, and article, by Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust, saying they are in a “very precarious” financial position. You may recall my blog three weeks ago about this particular organisation: it really is impossible to tell if they are actually in a precarious position, or whether these statements are more cynical and opportunistic: a post truth campaign if you like. There are no objective facts to support what is being said. I note the private businesses who also pulled together are not making such public appeals.
Brian Tamaki courted the headlines as well, postulating around the cause of the recent quakes. Obviously there were some issues with his lack of objective facts to back up his statements: I looked in vain for his Nature citations but alas, was unable to source. However, in the ruckus afterwards, and the call to remove Destiny Church from the tax free status they currently enjoy, some statements were made about the social programmes of the church. So, I went to their website. Yes, they do offer family violence programmes. Yes they offer family advice and indeed budgeting programmes. But there are no objective facts provided to suggest that these programmes change behaviours. Perhaps they don’t: the $860k of government funding reported in 2011 seems to have largely dried up. I also muse about the role of tithing within a family struggling with money. Before we get all shouty about the community benefits of this organisation, perhaps a better question is to ask for the proof.
Lincoln High School were this week’s Good Sorts on TV1 on Sunday. The student council did a massive job of raising over $40k for charity, through various events. But one piece missing from this great example of civic duty was critical thinking: one of their charities was Ronald McDonald House. Now, I assume it’s the Christchurch one (RMHSI). You may recall my earlier blog on this one. Since I wrote this they have released their 2015 accounts. These showed a trading profit of the centre– BEFORE ANY FUNDRAISING – of $68k, with income from government and interest. Nett fundraising now sits at over $840k, which has gone to a capital fund. For next year, I would suggest getting the accounting teacher involved in selection of charities to help separate emotions from objective facts.
We teach our kids to be cynical about advertising manipulation, but often do not apply the same thinking to charity. And it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and feeling of being part of something bigger, and it’s nice that giving or fund raising can give us that feeling of control over the uncontrollable.
We are starting to see the disturbing consequences of a post truth world. If we want our money to do the most good, can we ask to see the evidence of the good the organisation does? Can we ask to see how this organisation compares to others? And can we ask to see how the money will be spent? The new reporting standards go some way to separating reality from hyperbole, and perhaps we should actually look at these reports and attempt to unpick what they mean.
Would love to talk with you if you think this is vaguely interesting.