In the current Covid-19 context, many charities are struggling to maintain their different programmes and commitments. The needs of the communities they support are growing rapidly as the virus spreads into the more vulnerable sectors of society across the world. Consequentially, like me, you might be receiving an increasing volume of genuine requests for support hitting your inboxes. Maybe you are already committed to specific charities and wish to maintain or increase your support to these? Or maybe you have been challenged to respond to different appeals and are now faced with the question of how to select the appropriate charity for you? This blog post addresses 5 important questions (all of which are interrelated) that will be helpful for you to consider when selecting a charity.

1. Do you agree with or share the values and ethos of the charity?

The values and therefore witness of the charity will influence the way it is perceived by its beneficiaries. Do the beneficiaries trust the institution? It is important to understand what the values of the charity are and whether you agree with them. During the last year there has been much media coverage of inappropriate behaviour of certain agencies working in post-disaster contexts. The whole issue of safeguarding, and therefore the values and behaviour of charities in general, have gained much more prominence.

For example, WorldShare is an overtly Christian charity that responds to and through local churches, enabling them to identify and serve the needs of their respective communities. The local church as part of the community is responsible for defining both the response and its implementation. WorldShare places particular importance on the Christian values underpinning its motivation and action, but does not discriminate based on faith. It believes that the promotion of Christian values is one of the most effective means of reducing poverty.

2. Is the charity addressing the needs of the most vulnerable?

Medicine Distribution

Poverty equates directly with an individual’s or community’s vulnerability, no matter what type of threat is faced, such as disease, earthquake or drought. Though it has been said that Covid-19 does not discriminate, it clearly does; the poor are much more likely to be infected. It has become clear in the UK that even with our superior health and social support systems, there is a direct relationship between poverty and the spread of the virus. Therefore, in those countries that lack these health and welfare systems, the poor will be even more exposed to the threat of this virus. A good question to ask is does the charity, through its partners, have the ability to identify, reach and support the most vulnerable, particularly women and children? The health of children under 5 is often considered the key indicator of a community’s vulnerability.

Jesus said, “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

3. Do the charity’s programmes have realistic, measureable objectives and strategies to achieve these?

One of the problems sometimes encountered in charities is the setting of unrealistic objectives that are beyond local capabilities and accessible resources - the time needed to achieve aims is too optimistic, leading to failure and a disillusioned beneficiary community. Also, too often, programmes have been designed by external bodies without sufficient consultation with and the participation of the proposed beneficiaries.

Brian Platt states in the Oxfam Field Directors' Handbook that beneficiaries must be involved in all aspects of a programme’s conception and implementation, both as individuals and communities for there to be any real positive impact on their lives. The aim of a programme must be, where possible, to respond to the needs of the beneficiaries as expressed by them. I.e. Does the programme respond to ‘locally felt needs’ and respect its intended beneficiaries?

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:13-14)

4. Is the charity accountable and transparent?

Myanmar Floods

The efficiency of a charity is one of the first things you might consider before donating. How much of my donation will get to those in need in relation to how much will be spent on fundraising and administration by the charity?

Confidence in the charity will depend on its transparency, its ability to report openly, frequently and accurately on its activities, expenditures and achievements. Failures and problems should be acknowledged. All programmes encounter setbacks and often these result in better final outcomes; especially if donors are understanding and prepared to see a process through. Trust in a charity will rapidly be broken by reports of exaggerated achievements. Working to help alleviate poverty and reduce vulnerability is not easy. Reporting should be honest and not used as propaganda, which can be a tendency. Often, demonstrating solidarity with the poor can be as important to them as an expensive project.

The values that underpin a charity’s actions can act as a guide to interpreting their reports. What have the charity’s spiritual, as well as socio-economic, achievements been over time? Has it remained true to its declared values?

5. Does the charity inspire a sense of partnership?

Does the charity provide a means of feeling part of an initiative to help the weak and vulnerable? It is important for the continued motivation of supporters that the charity demonstrates that it clearly values their support and provides opportunity for greater involvement.

God uses his people to help those in need.
“The generous themselves will be blessed for they share their food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)

The aim of WorldShare is to connect local Christians and churches in the UK with local Christians and churches in the most difficult, least-resourced and least-reached parts of the world, to support their God-given vision to transform their communities.

By Kevin McKemey, WorldShare’s Chair of Trustees.
Kevin has worked over the years with a number of missionary organisations including Tearfund and World Relief. Kevin now works as an independent consultant and researcher specialising in disaster management. This has led to involvement in many of the major disasters around the world.