Oxfam unwrapped

Dec 26, 2012

Discussion by: jasonmannell
I was wondering if Oxfam is a good charity to donate to. I am not sure of their affiliations to religious organisations. I have read some negative comments about their “Oxfam unwrapped” program ( http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/4180/ ). Do you know if this is a good program or just a program that makes the donors feel good?


13 comments on “Oxfam unwrapped

  • 1
    QuestioningKat says:

    Not sure. Let your fingers do the walking. http://www.bbb.org/charity-rev




    Personally, I like donating to groups that have the least amount of overhead– religious or not providing they do not directly preach or require the person in need to do anything. The more direct route from me to the people in need the better. One person who personally collects Christmas gifts and gives them to a family that is in sincere need is better than an organization with a CEO and distribution center providing to people in need. I give my old clothes to a Christian organization that does not sell the items. They give vouchers to homeless people that can use them in exchange for items that they need. I used to take them directly to a woman’s homeless shelter, but they moved to a building that was challenging to enter and I noticed at my last visit that the halls were filled with massive piles of stuff for only a few women there. I also like to consider local.

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  • 2
    ramfalls says:

    Just checked figures from http://www.charitynavigator.or… from QuestioningKat

    $78,500,000 in contributions
    $75,000,000 in expenses

    net money $3,500,000

    Erm… I’m sure someone will justify those figures but I wouldn’t touch Oxfam with a barge pole looking at that stat.

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  • 4
    NoKiddingMan says:

     Currently, many medical researchers are in need of monetary support.  I suggest that you try to contact HR of university affiliated hospitals in your city or near your hometown and see whether you can donate money.

    I myself occasionally donate my time, because I have limited finances at this time.  Helping medical research is like helping humans on international level, because ultimately the knowledge will be used globally.

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  • 7
    Jos Gibbons says:

    Looking for charities with little overhead is a surprisingly bad idea, as explained in #3 of Cracked’s http://www.cracked.com/article… – they offer several primary sources, but I’m posting Cracked because they do a good job of combining them into a detailed explanation:

     Overhead numbers are almost meaningless. Each charity calculates them differently, and many do it incorrectly. Most importantly, they fail to factor in what the charity actually does. Take Invisible Children, the charity behind the Kony 2012 video. They received a lot of criticism for having an abnormally high overhead. However, few people noticed that Invisible Children actually has better financial ratings than major players like UNICEF and the Red Cross. So the problem was never that they were being inefficient with money — it was that they spent all of their well-managed funds on a half-hour guilt trip and a bunch of tacky posters. Kony madness notwithstanding, charities with higher overhead are generally better than their penny-pinching counterparts because of that simplest of business facts: You have to spend money to make money. The same principle applies to building schools, feeding and housing disaster victims, neutering kittens or whatever else a charity might deem charitable. And when we unwisely favor charities with low overhead, we’re actually encouraging them to cut corners. They’ll hire unqualified people, run cheaper but unhelpful programs or just flat-out lie about their finances. All of this results in less useful aid — exactly what analyzing administrative expenses is supposed to avoid.

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  • 8
    ramfalls says:

    Ok. I realise i was naive in expecting a load of students, do gooders and just nice people giving their time freely to put together a movement to get aid to the needy. I now realise it has to be a corporate, finely honed financial machine to adequately do the job. Oxfam. yer back in. 

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  • 9
    Jos Gibbons says:

    The most charitable good is done with donations when one is financially strategic, which may well result in overhead costs. How large they should be, however, I’m not sure. The numbers you quoted above do “look bad” (i.e. someone like me who doesn’t know what sensible overhead costs are expects $3.5 m/$78.5 m is going too far the other way). Does anyone here know any more about this?

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  • 10
    ramfalls says:

    I’ve got to say I was hoping like you for someone to come on here and tell me more about this. Surely, on this website there must be an expert on this.

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  • 11
    QuestioningKat says:

    If a Tsunami hits, I would trust the Red Cross to get aid to an area quicker than a small organization. In that sense, it’s a good idea to overlook the overhead and focus on effectiveness. When I stated that I avoid charities that have high overhead, I stated this as a personal preference.  Occasionally, I will give to large charities, but as a rule I like to give locally – to the art museum, shelters and even specify that donations to a large environmental group are spent locally – it’s just my preference.

    I’m not sure what to look for …high CEO salaries??? Personally, I thought the BBB review was positive. Also, check out what the employees have to say…There are many factors to consider and only you can determine what is important.

    If overhead is your concern, this might just be a better question for an accountant?

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  • 12
    GlenNeuro says:

    Oxfam like many charities do have people at the top raking in a fortune which is not necessary and it may be difficult to root out whether or not they have affiliations that you disagree with. If I had the money and the infrastructure I would donate personally to causes that matter to me using my company and networks to do it in a grass roots sort of way. In this way you can be sure you’re cash is getting to where it’s needed with the smallest amount of costs possible in all good conscience. There are many things you can’t control though. I was previously a soldier and noticed especially in Africa that aid does not get to where it is needed, sometimes due to militia/opposition action, sometimes governmental corruption, pressures from other more influential backers or “stakeholders” etc. My overall point is do as much research as possible to find out how your donations are used but remember that you can never control it all if it is outside of your immediate area of influence (the moment you pop the cheque in the post it’s theirs).

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  • 13
    Vicky-L says:

    I understand your dilemma, When I decided to start donating monthly to charity I gave myself a migraine researching their financial arrangements. It was impossible to find any who didn’t have, what appeared to be, horrendous overheads. In the end I settled for two whose ethos I most agreed with. The Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres.

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