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Donation girls: Are they genuine?

September 10, 2008

(My last entry before I disappear again to Sg for 3 days.)

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while.

If you sit in a kopi-tiam, chances are you’ll be approached by girls (its never a guy) with clear folders asking you for a donation for an orphanage or old folks home.

Their opening line can put a penguin to shame, going a full 60 seconds without taking a breath (I’m exaggerating of course but its damned long). Whether you want to donate or not, you have to sit through that speech.

I used to give happily to these girls but the last couple of incidents left me wondering.

The first incident was when I asked for the income tax reference number that’s usually printed on the receipt. Most charities I deal with have that number because donations are tax exempt, and these girls seem to represent established charities. The girl had no idea what I was talking about.

The second incident was more of an observation. I’ve done social work before and most charity volunteers tend to be midle aged. These donation girls are usually in their 20’s, my age. Maybe there’s an explanation to it. Maybe there isn’t.

Whatever it is, the numbers are interesting. If a person collects an average of $100 a day, with 10 girls you collect $30,000 a month. Give away 40% as commission and you still get a cool $18k a month tax-free cash. Great if it goes into charity. Not so great if it goes somewhere else.

The documents these girls carry look genuine enough, with photos and testimonials, even a receipt book. But you know what technology can create today.

Anybody know how to check if these people are genuine?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. LC Teh permalink
    September 10, 2008 10:50 am

    You’ve raised a good one here. e.g.:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/moneybox/3202182.stm

  2. September 10, 2008 12:16 pm

    Buy them cookies.

  3. September 10, 2008 1:07 pm

    I agree with Marcus. Get them food instead money. Kill two birds with one stone:O hehe

  4. September 10, 2008 2:04 pm

    I wouldn’t donate to them. PERIOD! Same goes for some beggars that seem to conveniently place themselves at strategic areas such as the weekly Pasar Malam.

    Better to donate through official channels.

  5. September 10, 2008 11:28 pm

    i will treat them with suspicion

  6. September 11, 2008 10:07 am

    Donate food straight to the orphanages or old folks home. Don’t donate money because it might be misused (maybe not by the girls or guys but by the person in charge at the charity place). By the way, normally it took me just 10 seconds to say NO with a serious “smile”. They will go away. πŸ˜›

  7. LC Teh permalink
    September 11, 2008 10:09 am

    If approached by suspected profit-taking donation collectors, perhaps it’s better to ask for their organisation’s account number and tell them we prefer to donate directly into their account. At least we can verify their authenticity.
    Anyone see a problem aith this response?

  8. September 11, 2008 11:33 am

    In my experience, any NGOs needs to be registered with the registrar of society (meant for NGOs & non profit establishments), so my best advice is to call ROS and they might be able to help. πŸ™‚

  9. September 12, 2008 11:02 am

    Give with your heart. For small amount I give cash, but for bigger amount I will ask them for address and name of the ass. and send them cheque.
    I think they are like sales girl, getting commission from the collection, so I dont think they understand much about income tax.
    Believe in you own judgement!

  10. Damien permalink*
    September 15, 2008 7:58 am

    Hi everybody, thanks for all your suggestions. I suspect these donation seekers, being ‘volunteers’, are not backed by any traceable organization. The shelters they ‘represent’ are most likely genuine but whether the donations actually go there is a different matter. I may be wrong but I have a sneaky feeling its a scam that rakes in millions a year. I actually spoke to one of the donation girls, a final year college student (bought her lunch at McDonald’s actually), and I think even she didn’t know its a scam. It poisons the well for real volunteers.

    Western countries have charity watchdogs to verify this kind of activity but does such a thing exist here?

  11. tinytapir permalink
    September 18, 2008 2:14 pm

    to answer your question ‘No’, the local NGO scene is very lax when it comes to being monitored.

    Yes, it is very difficult to set up a charitable Foundation, but almost anyone can set up a Home for ‘Orphanages’ and such without much effort. And there is very little watchdogging going on. The ROS is hopeless. They don’t even have a proper listing of NGOs and whether they are active etc. That’s why things like http://www.hati.org.my were set up, to fill in that gap.

    ROS basically just watches the books.

    I’d be careful about those homes for children too. As the Pure Life Society Head says, there hasn’t been a war in malaysia for many years, there isn’t really a need for so many orphanages. What these places turn out to be most of the time is a kind of ‘boarding school’ for low or lower middle income family groups to send their kids when they cannot care for them because both parents are working, or because one is a drunk or something like that. That’s why you’ll see a lot of ‘orphanages’ are very empty during school holidays.

    It would make more sense for them to convert to daycare centers, or as training / counseling centers to teach lower income parents how to be better parents (in the case of abused kids) or livelihood training centers.

    Of course some of these homes don’t even operate, they’re just a way for certain parties to ‘clean’ money. It’s all very complex. I would say best thing to do when donating money is to personally know the people involved and actually get involved yourself in the day to day running. If you just throw money at what you perceive is the problem, you’re more than likely doing no good at all (Status quo) or actually doing harm.

    Boarding schools masquerading as orphanages? Whoa that’s a new one. I’m not against charity but if its for a good cause, why does anyone need to disguise anything? Looks like many things aren’t what they seem nowadays. – d

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