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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Got a Flock of Chickens for Christmas!

It's one of my favorite presents and certainly the one carrying the most pleasure. How nice it is to know that some family in a faraway place will be able to eat eggs and raise even more chickens, thanks to the programs of Episcopal Relief and Development that distribute these animals and farm tools and other supportive items.

The Geranium Farm has a connection with ER-D -- see the links in the menu above to Gifts for Life and Pennies from Heaven, or their website directly, -- but I would write to advocate for it as an example of a worthwhile charity anyway. In a purely personal opinion, I like the dual nature of its mission: its people and resources are on the scene soon after disaster strikes, using the good offices of Anglican Communion dioceses all over the world to facilitate relief programs. But ER-D doesn't stop there. It pitches in with rebuilding and with general development needs. Moreover, this isn't confined just to foreign or just to domestic sites. ER-D works everywhere. So they pitched in in New Orleans and Mississippi and Joplin, MO, and in Haiti and most currently in the flood-ravaged Philippines.

Ways of the World first talked specifically about Episcopal Relief and Development a couple of years ago when a reader wrote to Geranium Farm colleague Joanna Depue at More or Less Church and complained that the salary of the President of ER-D seemed too high for any sort of charity. As the Farm's economist and numbers person, I volunteered to check this out. We consulted a directory of charities, Charity Navigator, which compares expenses across organizations, and we also looked at ER-D's "Form 990", the massive report they file each year with the IRS to document their tax-exempt status. We found right away that the President's salary is far from too large, especially for a New York-based organization. At the same time, as one might imagine, the recent economic turmoil has caused charity finances to contract and expand more than is typical. A new look at current financial statements for ER-D itself shows that it, in fact, experienced some backtracking in 2009, but that was followed by renewed expansion in 2010. Through it all, at least 85% of donors' contributions have gone to actual program activities, and in 2010, it was 89%. An indicator of fund-raising efficiency highlighted by Forbes Magazine for the mega-charities it studies checks the cost of raising $1.00 in contributions. In 2009, ER-D spent 11 cents, very close to the average of 10 cents for much larger organizations, and this may have been as low as 7 cents in 2010.

So, as you consider your year-end charitable donations, we urge you to think seriously of Episcopal Relief & Development, and we do so for two reasons. First, it has a great mission that seeks to serve many in need throughout the world, and Second, it is a well-managed institution with strong financial backing and a restrained cost structure.

Get yourself a flock of chickens! Or help dig a well in a village needing more water. Or start a monthly plan that sends whatever amount every single month to the area of greatest need. As a certain TV personality has been known to say, "It's a good thing!"


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