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Charity crisis: when the going gets tough

Charity crisis: when the going gets tough

Raising money for running costs is difficult. Everyone, politicians and donors alike, tends to feel that making a difference means doing something different or new. With politicians it is to try to make an announcement to look like they are doing something their predecssors did not manage to do. With donors it is human nature to want to do something extra. A tragedy in international aid is that funding for successful and well established projects fades whilst newer projects (which may fail in turn) appeal to the hearts and minds of donors.

For the first time in the eight years I have been in SOS Children, and apparently for the first time in six decades of its global operation, there is a realistic prospect of some of our international aid projects being shut for economic reasons. I am sitting at my desk looking at the stark discussion. Of course, there have always been short term emergency relief projects which reach a natural close and many projects close when they fulfil their useful purpose (indeed with every family we take on to a family strengthening programme in the developing world the sign-on process includes identifying how and when they are likely to be able to leave the programme independent and with better prospects than when they started).

Where has the threat come from? After all, as a long term charity taking on orphans who have a long term need we are pretty conservative and careful to be able to provide for the long term needs. Many of our supporters and sponsors, who have made a lasting difference to the lives of children, have continued to give through thick and thin. However, there has been a sort of perfect storm. An exchange rate drift weakening our income, an additional burden of international emergencies, rising food prices pushing costs up and the local impact of the global banking crisis (we normally raise tens of millions of dollars in the countries where we operate and where people can see the impact first hand but it is becoming harder and harder to do this as the global financial recession bites). Meanwhile in the UK, there has been a swing in the last year away from individuals giving to international aid towards them giving locally, particularly as local government pulls out of funding. The international government to government aid (which is the least effective) is growing but does not go to those on the ground and is also blighted by the desire to fund new capital projects.

What does this mean? Well, if you are one of the golden souls who is managing to continue a regular donation for our work, thank you and bless you. Never before has there been such a sharp end impact for every single penny. And if you are wondering about joining this magnificent band of ordinary people doing something really special, please do so now! Your contributions really will help us to keep desperately needed projects which have a proven impact on children's lives making the world a better place. Making a regular donation of a few pounds a month may be affordable with a bit of juggling and if you can do it then it makes a huge difference. Why not sponsor Africa or join the "pound for Africa" giving scheme for a pound a week?

Thanks for reading this

Andrew Cates