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The Facts


new internationalist
issue 228 - February 1992

Voluntary Aid - The FACTS

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. Income
The general income figure will not mean much without comparing it with the recent past - the table to the right shows the vast growth experienced by many agencies.

. Government money
The percentage of funds an agency gets from the government has grown markedly over the last decade. Since the NI last surveyed the agencies six years ago almost all get more money from their national government now than they did before - Australian Catholic Relief and the UK's Christian Aid and CAFOD are all up by more than 20 per cent. Some people think that the more funds can be channelled through voluntary agencies the better, since they are more effective. Others worry about charities losing their independent voice and becoming little more than a branch of national foreign policy - CARE in the US is particularly vulnerable to this charge.

. Education campaigning
Some agencies refuse to say how much money they spend on educating the public about the causes of world poverty - a willingness to spend money openly on development education and campaigning is a sign of a progressive agency.

. Fundraising
Church agencies spend much less on fundraising because money is routinely channelled to them through the parishes and the Sunday collections. All charities know that they could raise more funds for their work by spending more on marketing - but few are prepared to spend 90 cents to raise a dollar because it would alter the whole character and balance of the organization.

. Administration
All agencies try to keep their administration figures as low as possible, conscious that this is one percentage that the press and public always look for. This leads to some sleights of hand when it comes to accounting. For example, the salary of a desk officer working in Boston, but responsible for liaison with projects in Bolivia, will be included under 'overseas' rather than 'administration'. It's not unreasonable given that the programme in Bolivia could not function without that desk officer.

. Domestic programme
Some agencies have resisted launching projects in their own country, wishing to retain their special focus on the Third World - Oxfam UK is among these, feeling that it would be another sure way of antagonizing a hostile government. But the majority now feel that they should address basic-needs problems at home too, though this has been an easier step to take in the other English-speaking countries, which all have an indigenous population suffering as a kind of internal Third World.

Percentage growth in income since the NI's last survey which covered the financial year 1983 - 1984.

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All the agencies here can be categorized by type, though there is some overlap:

The Child Sponsors
World Vision, Foster Parents Plan, Save the Children, Action Aid and Christian Children's Fund all organize child sponsorship. The NI campaign against child sponsorship (on the grounds that it caused divisions within communities and promoted a relationship of dependence) was launched in 1982 and has had some effect over the years. The Canadian Save the Children abandoned child sponsorship completely; others, like Action Aid in the UK, continued with it at the fundraising end but switched to sponsoring whole communities rather than individuals at the other end. But the practice continues and our message remains: please do not sponsor a child.

The Evangelicals
These agencies have a Christian missionary message and are quite unashamed that this goes hand in hand with their material development work. World Vision are again the key multinational network here. The 1990 report of their US headquarters says: 'World Vision is, at the core, an evangelistic agency. Our fervent desire is to be our Lord's vehicle... Nearly 150 evangelism and leadership projects worldwide are providing opportunities for those in need to hear about the love of God and salvation through Jesus Christ'. Tear Fund falls into the same category.

The Church Agencies
Not to be mixed up with the evangelicals, all the English-speaking countries have mainstream church development agencies which often have a strong campaigning focus. Protestants like Aotearoa's Christian World Service and the UK's Christian Aid are linked through the World Council of Churches, while Catholics like Canada's Development and Peace and Ireland's Trocaire will often channel their funds through the same umbrella agencies or project partners.

The Secular Generalists
The Oxfams loom large here because they are multipurpose, tackling emergency relief, long-term development and campaigning. But an Oxfam project would often differ little from that of a church agency, especially in the area of empowering' local organizations. Much of Save the Children's work is also general, though it specializes in health and is more ready to work with governments.

The amount of money controlled by voluntary organizations may have grown but it is still a fraction of that given by governments. The English-speaking countries, though, are still far short of giving the internationally recommended minimum for overseas aid of 0.70% of gross national product.

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Source: World Bank, World Development Report 1991

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