Penny ponders: Sheep, ducks, and clean water

Penny Cliff Guest Columnist

December 14, 2013

The sheep are on page 4; the ducks on page 6 and the clean water on page 12. These are, “last minute gifts that really matter.” That’s what the front of the World Vision Gift Catalog for Christmas 2013 declares in a bright red circle meant to catch your eye.

My daughter Nikki and I ended up choosing 5 ducks and 2 chickens “whose eggs can feed families year round.” Nikki also chose a Bible in the “child’s own language.” This is what my mother wanted for Christmas as her present from us: anything from the World Vision catalog. We did this last year, pouring through pages filled with smiling children snuggling ducks, and lambs and chicks, to find Mom’s perfect present.

Mom does not have a lot of money, but giving to the less fortunate is her passion. She’s also an artist and any money she makes is donated back into clean water, goats, chickens, or something else offered by World Vision. “World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.” She likes that this charity’s accountability receives high marks. I needed to find out for myself. Did it really?

In 2012, the United States was the number 5 nation in giving, according to the World Giving Index. (You can find statistics for just about anything!) (Without you having to look it up, because I know you are wondering who was number one last year; it was Australia. Australia has been designated the “most charitable nation” for a few years.) Placing number five in the world isn’t bad. Because of the American generosity and big heart, it is easy to be taken in with a sad picture or story. (I admit; I have, more than once.) So I went to the Internet to investigate charities.

I found a “Charity Navigator” online whose purpose is for “Your Guide to Intelligent Giving.” (BTW, it is also a charity. But the methodology it uses seems valid.) There is a whole list of ways for evaluation of charities. According to this site, World Vision did pretty well gleaning three stars out of four. I then typed in a charity I had given to in the past, “Feed the Children.” It merited four out of four stars. There are many accountability and transparency evaluations as well as nice colorful pie chart breakdowns. I went into the top ten tab, which includes both the good and bad, and was certainly enlightened. I found a charity that I had given to several times (whose name I will not mention in this column) that eats up 83.5 percent of donations in fundraising. Needless to say, I’m never giving to them again. I double-checked World Vision and their fundraising expenses are a mere 10.3 percent. I’m sure that there are many other sites to investigate charities, but this is one I found and liked. Numbers tell stories, and these certainly do.

I couldn’t resist it; as my husband is a Lion, I plugged in Lions Club International to see how they fared. According to this Charity Navigator, Lions rated four out of four stars. There are many charities and organizations that have high ratings.

Christmas is the season of giving when Christians celebrate God’s gift of His son. Donating to a charity of your choice is one way of investing in life. The possibilities are limitless. Give a goat to save a child’s life with milk and cheese, but always give wisely to make sure that your donation is really is for milk money.