A Perfect Charity?


I wanted to take the time to respond to Jacob’s fantastic blog post last week on the Red Cross that you can find here. I’ve always been interested in giving back, and have worked for several different charitable organizations. Jacob’s article was of considerable interest to me as I have heard of scandals within charitable organizations, and if you’re interested in those types of companies please give his blog post a read. This week I took a look into charitable organizations that are in the same general category as the Red Cross, which is a multipurpose human service organization. Using a organization called Charity Navigator, which funnily enough is a charitable organization, I first took a look at what Red Cross was rated. This organization rates charities on a variety of factors such as overall accountability and transparency, as well as financials. The Red Cross was rated as a 3/4 star charity, with a score of 74.03 out of 100 for financial and 93 for accountability and transparency. It was nice to see, or rather worrying, that the Red Cross had a 74 for its finances, which mirrors what Jacob has mentioned in his blog post. After taking a brief look at the Red Cross, I wanted to take a look at what 4 star organizations there were in the same category. One that I found that was very similar to the type of work of the Red Cross was Feeding America.

While Feeding America isn’t as multinational as the Red Cross, it still provides a great mission. Feeding America is “…the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America.” Something about this charity that really struck my eye was how much money was spent on the program and services it provides. 98.5% of its total expenses are spent on programs, as compared to 90.3% for the Red Cross. I think that this metric is especially important because when we think of donating to an organization we believe that it is going straight towards the cause that they support. While there are expenses that need to be covered, it is great to see that most money used by each organization is actually put towards the programs that they put on.

Overall in this post I wanted to discuss the purpose of what a charity should be like. There’s no perfect mold that a charity needs to fit into, as every charity fulfills its own purpose and meaning. However, as we have seen with the Red Cross as illustrated by Jacob there are times where these charitable organizations falter away from their mission. There is no such thing I believe as a perfect charitable organization, as it is just that, an organization. An organization is not without flaws, but its ability to manage them is what sets it apart from others. Feeding America might excel in areas such as percentage of expenses dedicated to programs and services, but the Red Cross arguably affects more people around the world. No charity is perfect but with the public watching organizations such as the Red Cross and making sure they uphold their mission, I think we can get pretty close to perfect.

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6 thoughts on “A Perfect Charity?

  1. Ian, you raise an interesting distinction between the Red Cross and Feeding America. Your statistics on the amount of expenses spent for programs was alarming, especially since there is a 8.2% difference between the two. While I agree that both are charitable organizations and they both do good for the community, I also believe that knowing exactly how the organizations allocate their expenses can be equally as important. We want to believe our donations are going directly to the cause, but in this case (especially with the Red Cross), we know this is not entirely true. You do not hold either organization accountable by admitting all organizations have flaws, but maybe they (mainly the Red Cross) should allocate more funds for charitable purposes. As a donor myself, I would want my money to fund directly into the cause.

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    1. Lexi, in this case I do think that the Red Cross should be held accountable for the issues that are discussed in Jacob’s post. As you said, knowing where your money goes is a large priority for many donors and it is important that donors do feel comfortable.

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  2. Hey Ian, I definitely agree with your overall point that there is no “perfect organization” that can fulfill all of our expectations as a society. Even when I wrote the original article on the Red Cross, I was telling myself “This is kind of nit-picking, but it’s probably necessary for an organization that’s SO large with their level of worldwide responsibility.” I actually found it pretty curious that you found that they ranked a “93 for accountability and transparency” when the main issue they had in the last article was that they WOULDN’T disclose their financial allocations in their Haiti program. Very interesting…

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    1. First off, like I said up above great article Jacob. When I was reading your article I was thinking the same thing, that there was no way the Red Cross could keep track of everything that is going on. But the more and more I thought about it they should know exactly what’s going on. This issue was such a large one where someone had to know what was going on, if it were a small one I’d argue that maybe it would be ok. Also like you said I did find it interesting that they still got that high of a grade for accountability.

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      1. I also agree that a non-profit the size of Red Cross should know where there money is going. I grew up admiring Red Cross because my great-grandmother had worked for them and won some type of award. I would like to think that back in the day they fulfilled a specific goal of helping people, but now they have become too large to control. Now when I look to donate to an organization I always check charity navigator and try to consider where and how my money will be used. Unfortunately, the Red Cross is not the non-profit it used to be, but hopefully in the future they can change their ways and make use of the money that they have.

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