Because, why not? If I didn’t piss you off with my tithing post, I’m bound to get your blood boiling over this one. It’s angry comment time!

Am I the only one who feels like he donates to charity because he has to? I mean, sure, nobody is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to do it, but there’s still a moral obligation to donate some excess cash to your favorite cause. Depending on what you’re passionate about, that cause could be anything from getting the kids to stop smoking to delivering meals to old people. If somebody is disadvantaged out there, you can bet there’s a charity to help them.

On the surface, charity seems like a great idea. Somebody gets the proverbial shaft, causing them some sort of hardship. When the future looks bleakest, in steps the charity to provide the victim with some sort of assistance. This assistance is as varied as the number of charities themselves. That shot in the arm should be enough to give the down and out guy enough of a boost to get him through whatever he’s going through.

Or, you have the charities that are researching for cures for certain diseases- cancer, MS, whatever. These charities are always looking for that extra dollar to fund towards research. Hey, maybe the $20 you donated last year will finally conquer the demon of diabetes. You just keep thinking that. That’s what they want you to think.

Here’s a couple things to think of before you give some of your hard earned cash to charity.

The Medical Ones Suck

Let’s, to pick on a prominent Canadian charity, look at The Canadian Diabetes Association. Just how efficient are they as a charity?

Well, according to the excellent Moneysense charity guide, we see that only 43% of revenue actually goes towards research, with the other 57% going towards canvassing for more donations and administration. That’s right kids, they spend more money on other stuff than what they do on diabetes research. That’s an organization that’s either really bad at fundraising or has a lot of staff picking their nose. When we keep digging, we find it costs them over $43 to raise $100. Those are pretty good net profits in the corporate world. They’re pretty poor results in the philanthropic world.

In the world of charity, there are some good operators and some not so good operators. How am I supposed to tell the difference? By donating to the crappy operators, people are just feeding the monster. I wouldn’t want a nickel of my money going towards an organization that wasn’t ran efficiently, and neither should you.

To further pick on the Canadian Diabetes Association, most charities aren’t big enough to matter. According to their 2010 annual report, the Association funded $6.8 million in research. On the surface, this sounds like a pretty impressive number. And it is, until you place it next to the amount spent on research and development by the 5 largest drug companies in the world.

CDA- 6.8M
Big 5 Pharma- 32.5B

The 5 largest pharmaceutical companies have a budget nearly 5000 times bigger than the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Yes, I realize I’m being unfair here. The Canadian Diabetes Association is like the David Eckstein of charities. (as in, it’s small) Bigger charities with bigger budgets do stand a better chance of making a difference. But with the best researchers ending up at the drug companies, (and the bigger paycheques of the private sector) I like Pfizer’s chances of curing diabetes a whole lot better.

Charity Is Everywhere

Hot diggity, are there always a billion and 1 charity events going on.

Just recently I’ve been approached by kids selling magazine subscriptions, girl guides selling cookies, STARS, a large local project, cancer research and the food bank. It seems like every place you go has some sort of thing going on for charity, which usually tries to get a buck or two from your pocket. No, I don’t want to write my name on some heart shaped piece of paper for a dollar. Leave me alone.

With more and more competition, charities are being forced to be more aggressive. For the old school nationwide ones, that means stepping up their direct mail campaigns, usually with lackluster results. For the local ones, that can mean anything from putting on more events to even going door to door to solicit funds. Aggression pays off in charity these days.

But at what point do people start to resist all these efforts? Maybe I hang out with meaner people than you, but I’m starting to feel a charity hangover starting to happen.

Still, You Should Donate

The point of this post isn’t to convince you to never donate to a charity ever again. Rather, I want you to pick your causes carefully. Rather than just writing a cheque, do a little research to see just how efficient the organization is and how effectively they spend their money. Look at whether people are largely abusing the charity, or whether it legitimately helps people in need. For every good charity there’s a crummy one.

And, whenever possible, consider donating your time as well. In today’s busy world, that can be a greater investment than just money.

And if you just want to avoid the whole thing until you find charities that don’t suck, at least I’ll understand.

Tell everyone, yo!