Last year was a difficult year; financially many supporting families across the UK struggled, the exchange rate and rising food prices made our work abroad keeping children in families and away from the streets or institutional care more difficult. We had more established sponsors cancel than ever before (with many phoning up unhappily to explain that they could not afford to sponsor at the moment). But we carried on, the children grew towards independence and more milestones were passed.
What New Year resolutions can we suggest for 2013?
- Give to charities by direct debit online rather than ad-hoc gifts. Direct debits keep charity costs low and make reclaiming tax easiest. They also fit well with resolutions to give up smoking or other expensive bad habits and give the money to a charity.
- Don't respond to 419 scams, nor to "Chuggers" (street fund-raisers) nor to Charity Junk Mailers. These encourage organisations to hassle more people. However hard it is to be impolite, just say no.
- Predictably enough: sponsor a child for 2013. Child Sponsorship is the gold standard in giving to children (especially the way we do it with the maximum possible benefits for the child). It is an incredibly positive way to make the world a better place. There are too few child sponsors in the UK perhaps because many people do not understand how sponsorship works.
- Try not to re-invent the wheel. Of course this applies to everything not just charities. We all need the humility to follow in the footsteps of others. SOS Children gets three or four approaches a year from people wanting to set up new charities to do essentially the same as we do and asking for help and advice. Those people are the sensible ones and we are glad to talk to them. Others go it alone. Few get off the drawing board and the ones which do make mistakes from wanting to do things their own way. Some even set up charities saying they want to be the "opposite of SOS Children" but for all their pride they end up a decade later with pretty much exactly the same way of working as us. It has taken us 60 years to develop the best way of giving children hope and a family life, we improve it constantly and if we thought there was any better way of doing things we would adopt it.
- Always research charities before you give. The internet is perfect for this. Look up charities on the Charity Commission site, especially check the financial numbers and correct charity website etc.
- Do not believe the headline numbers even from very big charities. There are incorrect very large numbers often banded about ("a million orphans" often gets claimed after natural disasters but turns into several thousand quietly a few months later). Similarly with numbers of children in poverty: vagueness in definitions makes the numbers meaningless. Forget big numbers and concentrate on helping one child at a time. It is amazing what you can achieve.