Monday, April 9, 2012

People are a bunch of cheapskates

So this isn't really about India per se, this is just me being annoyed and sharing my annoyance with anyone who happens to read this. (As of now, that is nobody. Except maybe Yong. Hi, Yong!)

Anyway, I'm trying to find a charity to donate to on a monthly basis. There are so many kids begging on the street here (though not as many as I thought, honestly) and it's really quite heartbreaking. They say not to give money to them because you can 1) attract a swarm of beggars and it can get dangerous and 2) most of the kids are "pimped out" for lack of a better term and have to give the money they get to some adult ringleader (like Fagin in Oliver! maybe. But with less singing.) Newcomers are advised to choose a charity and donate to that instead of giving to the people on the streets. Mr. ATK has already chosen a charity and donates to it monthly.

Well, as luck would have it, I had been accosted by a guy working for Children International while walking in Union Square in NYC before we left for India. He was trying to get me to sponsor a child because that's what they do. (You know, it's one of those "For the price of a cup of coffee a day, you can send little So-and-So to school for a year" things.) He seemed earnest enough but I'm not in the habit of giving out my credit card number to strangers I meet in New York City parks. I told him I couldn't make any decisions without consulting my husband (because I think that's what you are supposed to do when you are married) and that I was actually moving to India in two days. He mentioned that they have a program in India and I should check it out. I wasn't sure if this organization was really a scam, but then I saw that Debbie Gibson was playing for them on Celebrity Apprentice and I thought, Well if Debbie Gibson supports this charity, it must be on the up and up. Then I flew to India and forgot all about it.

Fast forward about a month... We are happily ensconced in our apartment here in New Delhi and are learning the lay of the land. When discussing donating to charities, I remember the guy from New York and I look up Children's International. They work in several different countries (mostly in Latin American countries) and according to several review sites, they are not a bunch on con artists. Over 80% of the revenues go to programs, with I think 13% going to fundraising and 7% going to other administrative costs. I find this an acceptable breakdown.

Of course, because I have the attention span of a goldfish, I started wondering about Bolivia and maybe sponsoring a child there (or donating to a charity at least.) You see Children International only sponsors children in Ecuador and Chile, not Bolivia. While I have no problems with either of those countries (despite hearing about Chilean ocean stealing for 3 years), it's not the same as helping Bolivia. I remember hearing about Save the Children working in Bolivia so I look them up. They do indeed work in Bolivia and have a sponsor a child program. Though I believe I know some people who work for them, I decide to look them up online and check out there IRS stuff, you know to see how all the money they get is divided up. Well, they have a similar spending breakdown as CI. But, and this is the whole point of this post, as I'm researching I'm reading reviews by donors and while 90% are incredibly positive, there is a small subset of reviews complaining that the CEOs get paid too much.

It seems that the CEO of Children's International gets about $450,000 a year and the Save the Children CEO gets around $375,000 a year. Apparently this is just outrageous to some people. Never mind that average CEO compensation for for-profit companies is over $10,000,000 a year in the US. If these CEOs do their jobs well (running large international organizations), less than half a million dollars a years doesn't seem so unreasonable to me. I guess people that work in altruistic endeavors should do them for free, but people who make widgets and sell them for profit, well they should be paid as much money as they possibly can. (Not that people who make and sell things shouldn't be compensated at market rates, just that apparently someone that runs an organization with 217 paid staff (and probably a bunch of volunteers) with offices in 10 countries should do it for $20,000 (or whatever it is that these random people consider "reasonable."))

Anyways, I think I'm going to donate to one of these organizations.

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