When we give money to charity we feel better. Likewise when we work to help others. In fact there's a song from a recent hit on Broadway exactly on point. None of this should be news to anyone.
What about scams? While the good feeling when we help out a fraud is real, it rapidly turns to hurt, anger and betrayal when the fraud is discovered. The problem with charitable frauds is that the people running them are dishonest. While that may also seem obvious, the point is that a large percentage of the adult population is reasonably skilled at spotting scammers and con artists, which means that the fake charity has a limited pool of targets.
There is another sort of charity out there though. If you give money to Lutheran World Relief or World Vision, a high percentage of your money gets to worthy recipients. There are a variety of charity ratings websites out there to help you sift the scammers from the well-intentioned.
There is a problem with the ratings system, however. All they do is check to see how much of the money raised is spent on the charity's purposes. To understand why this might be a problem, think about your position on abortion. It doesn't matter for purposes of this thought experiment whuich side you are on. If you look at the ratings lists you will see very highly rated charities that are pro-life or pro-choice. They all have low overhead and fund raising costs, which makes them worthy charities in terms of the ratings. But that doesn't change the fact that they may be spending your money on something with which you are opposed.
Which brings me to my point. I ran across a charitable organization in my internet wanderings earlier, Bread for the World. They are fairly highly rated by the various ratings organizations. Their volunteers are passionate and committed. Their main focus is on hunger. It's rather difficult to knock fighting hunger, so that sounds like a good cause.
How, though, do they fight hunger? The answer in one word is lobbying. As near as I can tell, none of the money donated to Bread for the World actually feeds anyone who is hungry, unless our elected officials count as being hungry when they get peckish after a long committee meeting.
They don't hide their focus on the website, but they don't call attention to it either. The graphics show very cute children smiling. What possible connection those children have to anything Bread for the World does is not clear. Perhaps they are the children of the staffers?
I have no doubt that the people involved with Bread for the World are sincere. Many of them probably donate time and money to actual efforts to feed the poor. But it's hard to see what actual good the organization accomplishes. The U S government has spent and continues to spend enormous sums on world aid, some of which goes for food. More to the point, there are some highly effective charities out there, Oxfam, Worldvision, and the Salvation Army all come to mind, that really and truly do help the poor worldwide. They also speak to politicians from time to time as well, but they do not consider that to be their main focus.
If you want to help the world, please do so. There are many, many people that deserve and need your help. But is the charity of your choice really and sincerely helping others directly or just really sincere? There aren't any starving political operatives, printers, mass mailing specialists, lecturers, fundraisers and lobbyists in these parts, and at the risk of appearing cold blooded, maybe there ought to be.