Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

I don’t give to charities.

There is a street of shops close to my house where I go to do the shopping. Outside the main supermarket on the narrow footpath is the preferred location for charities to set up their stand and solicit donations. Because of the nature of the road you are forced to walk very close to them, and thus the friendly demands for donations are difficult to avoid.

There must be an agreement within the charity world of who gets what day as there is only room for one small table. Every day there is a different charity. Perhaps it is disabled athletes who want to go to the Olympics, or this type of disease, or these underprivileged, or that poor animal that needs saving. It is a relentless barrage of manipulation by guilt and I am sick of it.

On Saturday the good wife and I walked past and I waved away the appeal to our hip pockets. We walked up the street only to find that the shop we were seeking was closed. So we walked back down the road towards the charity zone and the same individual who had accosted us not two minutes previously had a fresh go again. I couldn’t help myself and I gave him a quiet serve as to the inappropriateness of being constantly badgered for money until the good wife pulled me away. We spent the next half an hour continuously dodging that bloody table.

Charity organizations are simply a giant scam. They exist to provide well paying employment for charlatans who wish to hide behind a veneer of magnanimous smugness. Oh sure, the poor schmuck standing on the road is making bugger-all, but the people behind the scenes are making very hefty salaries indeed. World Vision in 2011 had revenue of $2.79 billion and 44,500 employees. How much of each dollar that you donate do you think ends up in the hands of those that supposedly need it most?

Mind you, at least World Vision has some pretense of doing the right thing. Here is a story from just six weeks ago detailing how a prominent Australian charity fell apart after requests for the barest of financial scrutiny revealed disturbing problems to say the least.

There are 56,000 non-profit organizations with tax-exempt status in Australia. No wonder they have a daily roster going on outside my local supermarket.

I became particularly suspicious of so-called charitable organizations after the time I spent living in Uganda. There I saw first hand the devastating economic effects that are a direct result of the aid industry. This was detailed in the book Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo. I mean, who would have thought that donating ship loads of clothing to Africa would destroy the local textile industries? Surely they should have been able to compete with lots of free stuff. That’s how capitalism works, yeah?

Just before I arrived in Uganda some of my fellow guides attempted to improve a boat service that operated at the base of the Murchison Falls in the national park. The existing service was very badly operated so they formulated a business plan to improve it and help the locals, who understandably were very keen on the idea. It was a win-win for all concerned.

They got nowhere. Finally a local bureaucrat took pity on them over some drinks at a bar and explained how things actually operated. It turned out that the park received a yearly hit of foreign aid. That money passed through several offices of Ugandan officials and was steadily watered down before it found its way to the park. Whereby just enough remained to get the park through another year on a shoe-string budget.

The guides’ plan would have shown a healthy profit. But a healthy profit was anathema to foreign aid. If the park showed that it could operate at a profit then the aid would cease, and all those lovely kickbacks would disappear. The tainted money from foreign aid stunted economic opportunity and kept the locals in abject poverty.

In the past when hassled for a donation I used to reply that our family gives to one charity, which was a lie to get them off my back. Now I just tell them up front – I don’t give to charities.


Links for the weekend


Mike’s 10K words.


  1. Khan

    That park story is quite sad…

    • Adam

      Yeah, it is. But I have many other stories like that. It wasn’t an isolated case, unfortunately.

  2. Simone

    I found your blog recently after clicking on a link at Captain Capitalism, and have been coming back daily to enjoy your writing, to nod along in agreement with the opinions expressed here and to simply rejoice in the fact that there’s someone out there who appears to think along the same lines as I do. Being a 40-something wife and mother (of girls), I know I’m not a member of your target audience, but then again, with views like mine, there are probably not many blogs for which I am the target audience!
    Anyway, on the subject of charity-giving, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    There are many things my husband and I pay for that, if we were so inclined, we could easily do ourselves. We pay a gardener to mow our lawn and to keep our garden under control. We buy coffees when we could just as easily make coffee at home. Every now and then we eat out. There are other things we pay for that are luxuries rather than necessities, e.g. our daughters’ music lessons, dance lessons, tennis lessons and Sunday School lessons.
    Each time we, or our children, engage in these activities, we are helping to keep someone in employment, and in my religious tradition, providing someone with employment is the highest form of charity. Every cent I don’t give to World Vision is a cent I can give to my lovely gardener and his family instead. It’s a win-win.

    • Adam

      Hi Simone, thanks for the fine comment.

      I agree with your assessment of true charity. That type of charity also holds much more responsibility and civil interaction. Which is infinitely better than putting a coin in a jar and thinking you are wonderful.

      Women are always welcome here. Just as long as they understand the nature of the blog, which you seem to do.

  3. I once considered a career in development. I began some studies in that area.
    Then I volunteered in India to get some experience.
    Wow, that opened my eyes. I’d been learning about how poor countries were poor because of neo-colonialism – their industries were suppressed, their institutions were inherited from corrupt imperial structures etc. etc. It was all total crap.
    Just one example. A major problem in India is that the schools are rubbish. I’m not talking about the arcane points of pedagogy – the teachers often don’t turn up and when they do, they don’t always teach. They often get their jobs through local connections rather than training and experience so they are sometimes people without much interest in teaching. Add to that class sizes of 60 (with about 50 turning up on any given day) and you’ve got an elementary school system which is inadequate to prepare its students to pass the test to enter secondary education.
    So, is all that Britain’s fault? Or is it the fault of other rich countries for not giving India enough aid? No, there’s plenty of money in India. India will have decent schools the day India decides it is going to improve them. No outside help is required.
    And as for the nefarious influence of post-colonialism, how come Singapore’s sailing along fine? And South Korea, which was colonized by Japan? Clearly there’s more than history at work.
    Finally, I once heard the head of World Vision Australia say something like, “If you give us twelve billion dollars we could lift the whole world out of poverty.” And then he compared this to annual expenditure on weapons or porn or something. Absolute nonsense. If you look at how nations have become wealthy, it has been due to stable political and social institutions (banks, parliaments, volunteer firefighters etc.), industrialization and economic liberalization. And populations capable of taking advantage of these opportunities. Aid has only ever played a minor role compared to these much larger factors and could have been done away with. For example, Japan received some post-war assistance that helped it to rapidly rebuild. If they hadn’t received it their recovery may have been slower – but would Japan have been like the Congo today? Unlikely.

    • Adam

      So, is all that Britain’s fault? Or is it the fault of other rich countries for not giving India enough aid? No, there’s plenty of money in India. India will have decent schools the day India decides it is going to improve them.

      Absolutely. I abhor ‘special days’ like the one where we’re urged to think about drinking water because of the “poor countries” that don’t have it. They don’t have clean water because they’ve never made it a priority. Simples.

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