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Having a ball at your expense

By Teresa Gambaro - posted Friday, 17 July 2015

In The Charity Ball, Gary Johns quite rightly focuses on the need for donors to be better informed of the real purposes and goals of the many organisations and entities that are today calling themselves charities.

In the time of Dickens charity may well have begun at home, but today the number and variety of charities have proliferated on an industrial scale.

This charitable escalation, if I can call it that, has been amplified by the application of digital technology so that 'problem promoters' - as Gary refers to them – page 197 – I did my homework – can now 'problem surf' – page 11- on Google for whatever cause they choose.


So in this brave new world – we have a new generation of Hashtag crusaders – charities are sexy – but, 'clicktivism' does not a social conscience make.

But ease of access to Twitter handles and online information has not necessarily translated to donors being properly informed of the bona fides of the organisations they choose to support.

As Gary quite bluntly, but regrettably and very accurately puts it, too many charities in Australia do little or no charity work. Too many receive most of their income from government and too many lobby government for even more.

The 'charitable purpose' being pursued here is all too often the pursuit of the charity's own existence.

What is even more ironic in this debate is that when the terrible spotlight of accountability and governance is applied to some charities they cry foul and embark on a crusade of moral indignation railing against any who would dare question their legitimacy.

As Australians, we are known as being an incredibly generous people and Gary can speak more meaningfully about what his research reveals on the statistics of moneys raised etc.


Equally, I would hazard a guess that probably everyone in this room has at some stage in their lives given to at least one charity, whether that be through buying Girl Guide biscuits, handing in old clothes to St Vincent de Paul or some kind of disaster relief.

I am actually a great believer in the generosity of people, but I also subscribe to the views expressed by J D Rockefeller when he said: "Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it."

In my view, charities should not become their own growth industry and to the extent that they mislead donors as to their true intent and purposes then we should call out those activities for what they are – fraud.

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This is an edited extract from Teresa Gamabaro's speech launching Gary Johns' book The Charity Ball: how to dance to the donor's tune. It can be purchased by clicking here. The launch was hosted by the Australian Institute for Progress.

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About the Author

Teresa Gambaro is the Federal Member for Brisbane and Chair of the Joint Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

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