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Buy A Goat

With the holidays just ahead, and an endless list of things still to get, we have to remember to reflect on how well we help others. I donate to charities throughout the year, but at Christmas time I feel I want to give a little more. For many years I have sent medicines to clinics in remote locales around the world, however, this year I did a little investigating into how beneficial my contribution really is.

Canadians contribute close to 15 billion dollars in charitable donations annually, a number which surprised me. I wanted to do more than my usual share, but was quite surprised at some of the things I learned about charities. Now, there are many different ways to look at the numbers, but according to Stats Canada there are about 80,000 charities and, if you include nonprofits, the number skyrockets to 165,000. If you really want to see some staggering numbers add in all the ‘good cause’ car washes, chocolate bar sales and neighbourhood fundraisers, and the number climbs to just shy of a million.

So which one should I choose? Or, perhaps, should I start my own? Probably not a good idea. Like most of us, I’m moved by the charitable television ads and find it impossible to watch and not feel guilty, with tear-filled eyes. Now practically, I realize marketing to our emotions plays an important role in getting results, but that does not take away from the reality of the need.

So, what do I do? Do I buy a goat? Do I spend $35 to curtail leprosy? Do I sponsor a child? Or, when I see all the destruction in the world, is there any point at all? Well fortunately I have not reached a level of cynicism where I can be that callous, so I must find a worthwhile cause to satisfy my inner emotions and go on with life, believing I have done the right thing.

I contemplated buying charity lottery tickets, but felt guilty at the thought of personal gain under an umbrella of goodwill. Then I watched a W-5 program which explained that about 25% (give or take) reaches the actual cause. Canada’s largest charity claims, the cost to raise $100 is only $17, but apparently that does not include another 30+ percent of admin costs. Reportedly, one of the most efficient charitable organizations is the Salvation Army, where more than 80% goes to the cause and the person in charge collects less than $20K per year. There are many local charities, which you may want to consider, all of which help people in need. One of the international charities with a very high rating is Doctors Without Borders, as their total admin and fundraising cost is less than 17%. Plan Canada International also has good ratings, and if you want to know about a specific charity, visit

In short, you have to do what is right in your own mind, but a little investigation will go a long way to ensure the most money goes to the people who need it. The world, outside of our little kingdom, is not a happy place for the majority of its inhabitants. If we can do a little to help ease the burden of people suffering, we owe it to ourselves to do so. Charity begins at home, so go home, get out your piggy bank and give it a smash.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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