Charity gift donations: What are you really buying?

Charity gift donations: What are you really buying?

Looking for a virtuous gift this Christmas? How about a goat for a struggling family or a water tank for a drought-stricken community? Charities such as Oxfam and World Vision pitch these products, along with marketing images of cute animals and thankful recipients, but what do you actually get for your money?

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We asked seven charities that sell these types of charitable gifts what happens to donations.

If you pick out a goat, depending on the charity’s approach, your money may be used to buy a goat but it may be used instead to support farming projects or the charity’s other work.

As Christian World Service pointed it out, sometimes that flexibility matters: “Getting a goat that you don’t know how to look after or which you cannot feed could create more problems – or end up as goat curry.”

It may not matter to you if the charity spends the money on a goat or puts it towards areas where it considers the need is most urgent. But charities need to be upfront about what they’re doing with your money.

Five of the charities we looked at had information on their websites about where the money goes and what happens if a gift is oversubscribed. Childfund, Tearfund and World Vision clearly note it when you make your purchase. Christian World Service and Oxfam included it in their FAQs section.

Christian Blind Mission and Save the Children didn’t have this information on their websites. We think they should. Both organisations said they would add it after we contacted them.

Fundraising Institute of New Zealand co-chair Alice Montague said there’s benefit in charities being able to use their discretion to direct funds to where money’s needed most, but it’s important the charity is being transparent. If you want to know exactly where your money’s going, don’t be shy about asking the charity, she said.