Open Your Heart and Eyes When You Donate
According to Statistics Canada's most recent numbers, Canadian tax filers reported making charitable donations surpassing $8.6 billion in 2007, up 1.4% from 2006.
But Christmas is also a time when some people choose to take advantage of others, and it's more important than ever to be alert and ensure that your hard earned donated dollars are going to people who really need it.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently reported that a Toronto poverty group called the Metro Street Focus Organization recently had its charitable status yanked by the Canada Revenue Agency. Audits of the charity showed they had issued tax receipts for donations totaling $1.16 million for the 2006-07 tax year. But an audit showed that a significant portion of the cash given to the organization was used for the personal expenses of the executive director, including payment for educational studies, and repair and utility bills of the executive director's home.
Even the Canadian government, or a recognized 'brand name' charity isn't immune from being victims of crime. An article in the Globe and Mail reported that officials from the U.K., Canada, World Bank and UNICEF demanded that the Kenyan government prosecute corrupt officials who stole money earmarked to help send poor children to school.When we hear stories like these, it's easy to get frustrated and discouraged. Why donate money to support a worthy cause or help someone in need when the only person who will end up 'getting helped' with your dollars is some crook or greedy executive?
But it's important to remember that there are honest charities across Canada doing great work everyday to make a difference and support wonderful causes, and they need your help to continue doing that work.
Todd Minerson, Executive Director of the White Ribbon Campaign which is working to end violence against women, says while negative stories are distressing it's important to remember that it is a blessing to be able to give back to the community. The White Ribbon Campaign is the biggest effort of men and boys in the world working to end violence against women and is active in more than 60 countries.
"There are so many charities all across Canada doing great work, and we all rely on donations, especially around the holidays," says Minerson. "It's always unfortunate when a few bad apples spoil things, but there are ways to be smart.
Minerson went on to say that you should always be able to ask a charity for financial information and pointed out that White Ribbon posts their charitable registration number on their website homepage. He also mentioned a great site to check out called the Canada Revenue Agency Charities Listings website that allows you to see if a charity is legally registered.