The Voluntarism Fantasy, Mike Konczal, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, 2014:
Conservatives dream of returning to a world where private charity fulfilled all public needs. But that world never existed — and we’re better for it.
…Before government took on the role of providing social insurance, individuals and private charity did everything needed to insure people against the hardships of life; given the chance, they could do it again.
This vision has always been implicit in the conservative ascendancy…
Konczal’s article is written for an American audience and references that country’s experiences. However, Canada also has been influenced by ideological followers of Hayek and they believe that publicly funded social welfare programs equate with socialism, which inevitably threatens capitalism and leads to totalitarianism. Not wanting to redistribute wealth through taxation, right-wing libertarians promote individual charity as the way to address human needs.
These words explain part of my reluctance to celebrate charities. The other part of my discomfort comes from observations made while doing financial accounting and auditing of organizations established to help people in need. Needless to say, some encouraged cynicism.
In recent years, I’ve monitored and written about the CKNW Orphans’ Fund. Until 2003, it dedicated every dollar raised to its charitable activities. At that point, a bean-counter at Corus headquarters saw the Orphans’ Fund as a way of improving corporate profits. Administrative costs previously covered by the radio station are now paid by donors’ contributions. As the chart – taken from CRA reports – demonstrates, the costs have been rising, particularly after the retirement of longtime fund administrator Shirley Stocker.
The Shaw family minions have a right to levy whatever costs the charity’s board of directors is willing to absorb. What NW doesn’t have the right to do is to claim it supports the Orphans’ Fund as it did when Vancouver’s Griffiths family were owners. The difference is more than $3 million to date.
Since I first went public with information about Orphans’ Fund administration, the radio station has reduced its self-congratulations for how it treats the charity. Whereas it once announced that every dollar went to the kids, now they usually say most of each dollar benefits children.
However, if someone, staff member or guest, claims the station pays every cost of administration, the statement seems always to go uncorrected.
Another point donors should understand: NW Orphans Fund collects money and pays various fundraising and administrative costs. Part of what is left over gets granted to other charities and agencies who have their own overheads. So, another portion of the pie gets eaten before actual people get benefits.
People who want to contribute to charities should do so directly, not through multiple layers of charities. For example, NW's charity gives money to Boys and Girls Clubs. If you support their goals, give them money and cut out the middleman.
Before you donate to charity, check their financial statements at CRA.
Good stuff Norm. I stopped contributing to the Orphan's Fund a long time ago. We were a regular along with thousands of others at the annual herring sale in New West. When the talking heads on NW began their continuous misinformation march re anything Union related which included the people of the UFAWU who donated their time and money to get the herring at no cost to NW that was the end of it for me.
We can regularly hear advertisements on CKNW asking listeners to donate to the Orphan's Fund. It is a safe assumption that Corus Radio charges for these ads. Because the charity is an organization of few people and new members must be invited and approved by existing members, it can pretend to be independent of NW but still operate for the company's benefit. They report very little to the public and there is no broad based membership to whom management is accountable. It's not a charity I would support.