Research charities before you give (July 1, 2013)

Written by Charles Lefebvre

Published by Calgary Herald on Monday, July 1, 2013

A deadly tsunami in Thailand. Earthquakes in Japan. Famine in Africa. Whenever disaster falls upon some remote part of the world, Canadians willingly hand over their spare change at the grocery till or write a cheque at a local bank.

But now a massive flood has brought devastation here, and cashiers across the country are asking customers to help flood relief efforts in Calgary. It's somewhat surreal to think that we are the ones asking for and needing help, although it's a good reminder that we should all give when we can because, at some point, we all need the help of others.

That said, we often find ourselves in a dilemma as we consider where, among a multitude of charities doing the same thing, to put our money.

Some organizations are now responding to this problem by giving donors the kind of information they need to make sound decisions. That is, the efficiency and accountability of charities is now being studied and publicized.

This week, Moneysense magazine released its 2013 evaluation of Canada's 100 largest charities, and it is reassuring that two of the top-ranked charities are providing disaster relief here.

Samaritan's Purse and the Canadian Red Cross both received the top grade of A+, when evaluated for efficiency of fundraising, governance and transparency/accountability. Samaritan's Purse spends 90.1 per cent of money raised on its programs, while the Red Cross spends 88.5 per cent. That means just 10 per cent (approximately) is going into administration, salaries and fundraising. That's good news for both donors and those receiving aid.

Both groups were also ranked highly in 2012, so their success isn't just an anomaly on the scale.

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