PERSONAL: Charitable investment


I’ve been going through the Barnardos (a kid’s charity) annual report. Part of the reason for reviewing the report is to ensure our dollars are used the best they can be – ie are we getting the best ‘return’ on our charitable ‘investment’.
[Sorry if this sounds too clinical, but with over 1,000 registered charities in Australia, I think you need to be picky about who you give your money to].

So, here’s the summary of what Barnados have done in the 2004/05 financial year.

1. They raised $24.2M, with 30% coming from donations (the rest is largely from Government funding)
2. They spent $24.1M, primarily on welfare centres (however $1.2M was on marketing including fundraising)
3. They helped 7,025 children, and over 1,000 of these involved court action

As a very rough average this meant that they spent $3,429 per child to ensure the child was assisted in escaping neglect or abuse.

Three things surprised me about these figures:
1. They achieve so much with so little.
7,000 children is a lot of children. Think of your average high school, and then times it by 10. That is about the size being helped. And then think of $24M – it is peanuts. Some CEOs in Australia earn more than that each year (OK, I hate it when people trot out comparisons with highly paid executives too, but you get the picutre).

2. The $/child cost is so low
Where I work we charge over $5,000 for a week of consulting. It would be very rare for us to even do a program mod for less that $3,429. So, for the equivalent of what we charge a client for a small program change a child is being helped. This is a comparison I can relate to easily.

3. The government is a big helper.
Close to 70% of the welfare that a charity like Barnardos provides comes from Government coffers (mostly State Gov btw). I didn’t realise the level Government contributed.

Ofcourse the saddest thing is how great the need is – for the thousands of kids helped, there are thousands missed (and in other countries these thousands no doubt turn into millions).

Also sad is the cycle that neglect breeds. Neglected children in turn are extremely likely to neglect their own children down the track. Barnardos helps break the cycle.

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By Craig Bailey