Is this an ethical issue? Or am I fretting over nothing?

I am very grateful that the Canadian government matched my donations to Philippines relief.

Except that the government did not match my donations, at least not in the plain sense of the word. Nor, more importantly, in the way implied by some promotions by Canadian relief agencies.  And that worries me because I wonder if donors are being misled.

Truly, every dollar that gets used decently well in the Philippines is a blessing and doing whatever we can is a moral imperative. The typhoon that made landfall on November 8 rewrote what we mean by “devastation.” So it seemed right and commendable that the government increased the amount it pledged, and extended the deadline for donations to qualify to Dec 23.

Now when you hear “your gifts will be matched” what do you think happens? If you’ve been around for a few decades, as I have, you’ve had regular opportunities to give to a favourite charity in emergency situations. You decided your gift size knowing that your donation would be matched by government funds – funds that flowed to the charity you support, for programs you are already funding with your gift.

That has changed. Today the federal government money goes into a fund administered by the government. No specific charity is guaranteed to ever manage or draw on those government funds, which will be used in ways determined by the government. The same approach was taken in Canada’s official response to the earthquake in Haiti.

That those funds are not going to a charity connected to my gift is not the issue. I do have a personal preference towards deploying such funds through charitable non-government agencies, because having people on the ground can enhance speed, efficiency and accountability.  But my preference is beside the point.  

The point is that when considering my own response to the Philippines, I noticed significant differences in how the “government match” is marketed. Now, a month later, a second look tells me that charities – and fundraisers and marketers in particular – face something of an ethical challenge.

Online promotions seeking donations for Philippines emergency aid divide into two camps- those who take pains to explain the matching mechanism, and those who do not. I am not critiquing the motives or ethics of anyone involved in these choices, but reading several appeals in succession makes the distinction very clear.

Here are some examples with links that were active on Dec 12. Even a quick scan reveals the divide in approach. (KMA clients are found on both sides of that divide, but we have not been involved in these emergency appeals.)

I have no opinion about which organizations are more effective, and nor do I believe any dishonesty is involved. I just think some donors will end up surprised by the mechanics of how their gifts are matched. Maybe everyone understands the new paradigm now except some of us ancients, but I doubt it.

That’s my concern. If any donors are feel misled by the way the appeal and the matching gift are framed in communications, how does that help any of us trying to raise funds for 80,000+ good and worthy causes in Canada? Anything that feels like something is hidden erodes trust, and if we lose trust of the donors, we’re truly out of business.

That’s why I am a huge fan of how communications are done by Medecins sans frontiers /Doctors Without Borders. Browse their press release archive and there’s no mention of matching funds for the Philippines at all. And now they’re discouraging such donations altogether. They have issued similar communications in the past. 

Imagine the trust that builds with their supporters. The familiar Latin phrase res ipsa loquitur is often translated as “the thing speaks for itself.” All I want to add is, when it comes to communications with donors, I want to hang out with the doctors.

- Larry Matthews

Am I worried about nothing? Or might donors be misled?

(These examples are presented in alphabetical order.)

ADRA Canada

http://bit.ly/Ji6F4W

GREAT NEWS! The Government of Canada has announced that it is extending its $1-to-$1 matching scheme for Typhoon Haiyan donations until Dec. 23. This is the time to make your donations really count: https://secure.adra.ca/typhoon-haiyan. Take a minute to watch this short greeting and update from our Executive Director. (A man on a video simply states that gifts “will be matched dollar for dollar.”)

 

Canadian Red Cross

http://bit.ly/1f9wNsS

 “The Government of Canada will match the donations of individual Canadians between November 8 and December 9, 2013. Those funds will go into a relief fund that is separate from the Canadian Red Cross and will be administered by the Government of Canada. Funds raised through this program will support on-going humanitarian assistance in typhoon affected communities.”

 

Development and Peace

http://bit.ly/JadJzS

GIVE NOW - Donations will be matched until December 23rd, 2013. Donations made to Development and Peace for relief efforts are eligible for the matching fund program announced by the Canadian government. 

 

Oxfam Canada

http://bit.ly/1by7WKN

Update: Federal government match extended until December 23rd.
The Government of Canada has indicated that until December 23, 2013, they will match every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities, in response to the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines and other affected countries.

Click here for more information on the matching fund.

 

PlanCanada

http://bit.ly/1dt9Zmx

Donate now and the Canadian government will match your donation to help the children and families affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, made landfall in the Philippines early November 8, devastating millions of children and families, and ravaging entire communities in its wake.

You can help. Donate today with a one-time contribution or sponsor a child.

 

Samaritan’s Purse

http://bit.ly/19jTNVr

Your gift will help us to quickly meet emergency needs such as medical care, clean water, nutrition, and basic hygiene to help bring hope and reduce suffering.

All donations made between now and December 9 are eligible to be matched by the Canadian government.

More relief has recently arrived after Samaritan’s Purse loaded some 110 tons of emergency supplies onto a cargo jet in North Carolina on Nov. 15.

Donate now

Samaritan's Purse is responding in Jesus' Name to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. Your gift will help us to quickly meet emergency needs such as clean water, nutrition, and basic hygiene to help bring hope and reduce suffering. Donations made before December 23 will be matched by the Canadian government.

 

Save the Children

http://bit.ly/1aYFFgx

The destruction has been devastating. Over 11.3 million have been seriously affected and over 600,000 displaced.  Survivors are in immediate need of clean water, food, shelter and medical care. The Canadian government has pledged to match dollar for dollar gifts donated by individual Canadians to the emergency through Save the Children or other registered Canadian charities. By donating today, you can double the impact you make on the ground. With this Government match your gift of:

  • $25 helps four families with mosquito nets, blankets, candles and children’s clothes
  • $50 will supply tablets to purify almost 40,000 litres of water
  • $106 will provide hygiene kits for four families
  • $200 will deliver 44 warm blankets”

 

Unicef Canada

http://bit.ly/Ja8bFt

On November 8, 2013 one of the largest typhoons ever recorded ripped through the Philippines. 12 million lives at risk and over 4 million children are in danger. These children and families need your help now. Every donation will go directly to relief efforts.

DOUBLE YOUR DONATION IMPACT with donation matching from the Government of Canada.

UNICEF is on the ground ensuring every child has access to clean drinking water, essential medicines and emergency nutritional supplements, but our supplies are stretched to the limit. We need you to help today to reach more families.

Give these families the chance to survive. Help those hit by Typhoon Haiyan. DONATE NOW.

If you prefer to donate by phone, call 1 877 955 3111. We are available to answer your call 24/7. All donations are 100% tax deductible.

Your donation will bring vital relief to children and families impacted by Typhoon Haiyan.

* For every dollar donated by individuals to UNICEF Canada from November 9 to December 23, 2013, the Government of Canada will be matching donations dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 per individual.

 

United Church of Canada

http://bit.ly/18E7uee

The United Church has issued a church-wide appeal for donations in response to the super typhoon that devastated much of the Philippines on November 8. Funds donated will be distributed to United Church partners in the Philippines and ACT Alliance for relief and reconstruction efforts. The Canadian government will match, dollar for dollar, donations to registered Canadian charities, including the United Church, made between November 9 and December 23.

According to the government, “For every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines and other affected countries, the government will set aside one dollar for the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund. The government will use the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund to provide assistance through international and Canadian humanitarian organizations, employing established channels and procedures.”

 

World Vision Canada

http://bit.ly/1cDjqkZ

URGENT: The Canadian government is matching donations made by individual Canadians to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts. Donations made to World Vision Canada, between November 9 to December 23, will be matched dollar-for-dollar; please help today.

World Vision is responding in the Philippines, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan—the largest storm to ever hit land.The devastating typhoon has affected more than 11 million people in that country, and has left thousands dead, with a death toll that is steadily rising.



Your gift will help bring vital relief to children and families impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, by providing lifesaving essentials and emergency supplies like: food, blankets, household supplies, hygiene kits, shelter and clean drinking water.

With 55 years of experience in the Philippines and staff members based throughout the country, we are working closely with government disaster response teams to assist with immediate and long term needs.

Please donate below or call 1-866-595-5550 today. Your help is urgently needed.

 

Medecins sans frontiers / Doctors Without Borders

http://bit.ly/1d9tTmd

MSF Canada thanks Canadians for their generous outpouring of support for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Donors have contributed more than $2.1 million for MSF’s relief efforts in the Philippines.

Due to generous support from our donors and our ongoing assessment of needs in the Philippines, we ask donors to designate their donations for MSF’s general Emergency Relief Fund.

These funds will be used for underreported emergencies all over the world, as well as for disasters like Typhoon Haiyan.

The Emergency Relief Fund gives MSF the flexibility to respond at a moment's notice when humanitarian emergencies occur, in more than 70 countries.

Thank you for supporting our work.