Charities are good and above reproach, right? When I was young (and naive) I believed in the collective lie that we tell ourselves. That charities and NGOs are firmly planted in the category “good” and that any contributions would go to help the needy with as minimal an overhead as humanly possible. I thought that all employees of such organisations must be pure of heart without a selfish bone in their bodies. Alas, this untruth failed to survive even the most cursory of scrutiny.
A couple of days ago one of the leading newspapers in Norway broke a story about the Red Cross. Apparently, they had been less than truthful in their description of their charitable activities in Haiti. Scratch that, they had pulled their list of accomplishments straight out of their ass. The newspaper compared the list put forth by the Red Cross and compared it with the actual situation on the ground. They had the nerve to claim it was all due to “miscommunication”. Unfortunately, their reckless actions have damaged the credibility of the whole non-profit sector domestically. Comments sections are filled with angry citizens vowing to end their charitable contributions.
This kind of lying is nothing new for those in the know. We all know about the lies perpetrated by the Clinton Foundation and their ilk. Domestically, we have had other scandals involving so-called charities. Naively, the Norwegian government gives out a tremendous amount of money to NGOs in order to “foster a healthy civic life”. Multiple organisations including the Catholic Church and an anti-racist left-wing organisation have been caught falsifying their membership rolls in order to get larger handouts.
Something that I didn’t understand before looking into all of this is the motivation that drives charitable fraud. We can all understand why someone would fall for the temptation of fraud, cheating and stealing in a for-profit business. But similar greed can be satiated in the not for profit sector as well. If you are able to con people and/or the government into giving you funds, you can build an organisation that hires friends and allies, supplying them with fat paychecks. Additionally, you can exercise political/cultural influence on the taxpayer’s dime. This is certainly easier and preferable to using your own hard-earned cash. This can also be seen in the revolving door between politics and NGOs. We have all heard about the revolving door as it relates to lobbying firms, but it also applies to charities. Many of these charities do perform admirable work, but money that could have benefited the needy is siphoned off into excessive salaries and luxurious restaurant outings/travel and the like.
Another troublesome aspect of charity can be seen in the currently unfolding migrant crisis. “Defend Europe” have valiantly uncovered very questionable behavior on the part of so-called humanitarian organisations. Under the guise of helping migrants from drowning, these groups have cloaked a massive, organised human trafficking operation. Not only are they cooperating with human smugglers, money is changing hands and they are encouraging poor and vulnerable people onto rickety and dilapidated boats. In other words, they are effectively a pull factor drawing people into danger. The open sea and unseaworthy vessels are a poor combination if your overall goal is to reduce drownings.
A fundamental problem with the charitable sector is that many organisations conflate their mission and politics. Although I wouldn’t ban such conflation, the public should be informed and aware of such bonds prior to them making donations. Often you will have left-wing politicians on the boards of these groups, these groups advocating left-wing policies and making contributions to left-wing causes. It is unfortunate that something as noble and desirable as charity is mired in and tainted by all of this. True charity does indeed have a place in society, but it needs a serious power washing until the muck of cheating, fraud and underhandedness goes away.