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Giving Machines

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Part of my reaction may be due to having lived with grandparents and one parent who always attached their gifts with strings.  My dad, for example, paid off my husband's student loan, but insisted we deposit what we would have paid into an account that would pay for me going back to school (he thought my health issues were a result of boredom, not the genetic disorder he passed down to me).  Since I wasn't healthy enough to go back to school, it was a ridiculous string that satisfied him and fit his world view and needs nicely, but had little to do with my actual needs (I could have really used the equivalent to pay for a specialist that might have helped me medically to get me to a place I could consider going back to school or something else I enjoyed), but we just used it as a savings program and then got his permission to put it towards a house or some other necessary purpose.  Eventually I told him to stop giving me money gifts if they came with strings because I wasn't a child anymore and he either trusted me to be wise with my money based on how he saw I lived or not.

I have encountered a number of generous people who gave charity without taking the time to find out what the person really needed and either saddled the person with something pretty useless or something they just passed on to someone else or it set things up to make it harder for them (required extra attention they couldn't really spare).  I have even been told I was uncharitable because I suggested taking five minutes to talk to someone asking for help and than helping them as best one could was better (helping them buy the food, clothing, or medicine that they were asking for) than just handing over money.  Having seen professional beggars next to those in actual need and knowing there are limited funds for everything, I just don't get that attitude ("the intent to give is all that matters, not whether it actually helps someone").

Since I can't currently be personally involved in charitable efforts, I have chosen to give money to the Church because I have seen how it makes an effort to get what is actually needed to those who need it, rather than fall in love with a program for how good it makes people feel.  But they also do a good job of that with fast offerings and programs like these vending machines.  For me this is a nice plus, but not the meat of what the Church welfare does.  It is more important for them to help people in need than make me feel extra special about helping out, imo.

I don't believe church members should just assume the Church is doing good work and give them all their charity so they don't have to spend time checking things out.  I think they should investigate what the Church does.  It has a website and frequent news articles out there. With some work, one can find local programs so one can see up close what the Church is doing.  If that is not enough info, then donate to a charity that tracks money the way you like it to be tracked.

Edited by Calm
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9 hours ago, Rain said:

We have the same problem in Phoenix.  Giving the items directly to the homeless also often draws many away from services that can help them better.  So the city has asked people to give to shelters etc instead. 

I forgot to mention that they asked the same thing, thanks for bringing that up.

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9 hours ago, Rain said:

Gladly!

This is our site: Gathering Humanity  If you scroll down you can find the link to the wish lists and other ways you can help.   

A little info:

We started helping refugees that were arriving in Phoenix.  We collect household items etc and then set up an apartment in cooperation with resettlement agencies for when they arrive.  The government requires many of those items which becomes a loan for them, but it is pretty heavy to have that much of a loan when you may not know the language, have job skills and other things that put you in the vulnerable category enough to let you come here etc.  Everything that comes through Gathering Humanity is provided to them free so they can start to be self sufficient more quickly.

Our greatest need right now (a real crises) is with asylees from Guatemala, Honduras etc.    Many of them have been robbed of everything they have, have little or no money, food and clothing.  When they are released by immigration they need to make their ways to sponsors, usually family members, where they will await for their papers to be processed. Most of them that we are seeing have a young child with them.  They then need to travel by plane or bus (usually) paid for by their sponsor.  The backpack we provide helps them go the sometimes 3-5 days of travel. we have been working with churches that have been overwhelmed hosting sometimes 200-250 people a day and often need to stay there till their travel plans are made and ready.  So we are also helping them provide meals, medications, clothing etc.  

The link to our wish list on the site will actually show you 3 wish lists to the left.  Two are for refugees and the "urgent" one is for asylees. 

This is awesome Rain, I will check it out!!

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8 hours ago, phaedrus ut said:

There have been some behaviors in charitable fund raising in the past done by the church that I have some serious questions about.  I did some analysis of the public financial statement of the church in the UK and posted it here previously but I can only find one of the posts.  Let me set the stage.  On December 26, 2004 there was a tsunami in the Indian ocean that hit over a dozen countries and killed over 225,000 members.  As calls for aide and donations went out there was a request for members to make their aide donations to the Humanitarian Aide Fund of the church because "100% of every dollar donated is used to help those in need".  I verified with members I knew in the UK that they also received the same request.  I had noticed in previous years only a small portion of the money collected for fast and humanitarian donations were ever used in a particular year and the funds saw continued increases in their unused balance each year.  So after the 2005 financial statements were published we had the opportunity to analyze donations and expenditures.  Here is what I posted back then. 

It's been a few years since I've looked but I believe the policy now is to sweep the unused balances of these "restricted" funds and send the money back to the church headquarters. 

 

Phaedrus 

 

whoa :(

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6 hours ago, pogi said:

I don't know how you can say this is not transparent:

That is 100% full disclosure.  If you don't like that there may be a chance that the charity may decide what services would be most beneficial, then don't donate...but in no way can you claim this is not transparent. 

100% disclosure means we can go download publically available reports for each item  purchased through donated funds.  Please send me the links to the reports.

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4 hours ago, JAHS said:

Before I donated I would check the reputation of the charity and make sure that what they are doing is something I agree with. Then I would donate to them and not care exactly how they use it.
I know that the church would only partner with charities that support worthy causes that I would also support. Therefore I don't care what they do with my donation.

I checked out the Cancer Society's website and was apalled to see the food menus they were offering. Terrible food suggestions! I got the idea after watching a Netflix documentary about meat or something. They bring up the Cancer Society. Now it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I would never donate to them. Also, Michael J. Fox has collected millions for his charity to fight Parkinson's Disease, I reached out to them and asked if Michael had tried cannabis, because clearly it has help those with the disease, but they have yet to respond. Makes me wonder and I question how hard some of these charities are trying to find a cure. 

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45 minutes ago, blueglass said:

100% disclosure means we can go download publically available reports for each item  purchased through donated funds.  Please send me the links to the reports.

So contact each charity and ask them for such reports. If they don't have them then I guess you're out of luck, so don't donate if you really don't trust them.

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On 12/18/2018 at 6:49 PM, hope_for_things said:

The skeptic in me is wondering whether there is any way to verify if the contributions people make using the church’s giving machines actually are donated as advertised.  Does anyone know if this is possible to validate or verify?  

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900047090/cows-goats-meals-givers-make-52000-contributions-at-light-the-world-giving-machines.html

 

This sounds like something my friend S. Hebert Young might want to investigate. 

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7 hours ago, HappyJackWagon said:

"Hey, Catholic Charities. I see you provide goats to needy families. How many goats do you need? 1000? Cool. We got you covered."

I could be wrong, but it isn't the Church's idea about the goats.  There is a specific charity that does things in this genre:  https://www.heifer.org/

So it is not the Church (nor Catholic Charities) promising the goats, it is that organization.  It is simply a specific organization included in the machine.

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46 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

Oops. You've shown your hand, HFT. This isn't about the giving machines or transparency. It's about your disdain for the LDS church and its members. No wonder this whole thread is rather absurd. You are using one thing (giving machines) as the cover for an attack on another (the LDS church).

Yep. As I noted above, this whole absurd exercise is a glimpse into the critical mindset more broadly.

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9 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Thanks, I know that is what they state up front, just wondering if there is any verification mechanism.  

Non-profits are legally obligated to abide by certain rules as a condition of their non-profit status.  Since the IRS is now being defunded by the Trump Admin in order to prevent them from investigating and enforcing such rules, keeping tabs on non-profits will be much more difficult.  The LDS Church, however, operates with such internally rigid rules that it is unlikely that anyone could get away with anything.  At the same time, the LDS Church underwrites all administrative costs with tithing funds so that humanitarian contributions are never needed to be spent on anything but directly helping those in need.  All charitable organizations publish the percentage of the contributions they receive which are actually used to help people.  Most such organizations spend huge percentages of their intake on advertising and administration.  Too little actually ends up being spent on the needy.

Watchdog agencies (including Consumer Reports) actually ride herd on most U.S. charities (those required to file an IRS Form 990).  CharityWatch, for example, which uses a letter-grade rating system, gave National Veterans Services Fund an "F" and the National Military Family Association an "A."  To become accredited by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, as another example, a charity is required to spend at least 65 percent of its total expenses on charitable efforts and no more than 35 percent of its contributions on fundraising.

However, since the LDS Presiding Bishop is not required to file an IRS Form 990, such watchdog agencies do not report on it.

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1 hour ago, MiserereNobis said:

Oops. You've shown your hand, HFT. This isn't about the giving machines or transparency. It's about your disdain for the LDS church and its members. No wonder this whole thread is rather absurd. You are using one thing (giving machines) as the cover for an attack on another (the LDS church).

It's no longer the rather tame (by absurdist theatre standards) "Waiting for Godot." We've moved on to "Endgame" now. How far will we go?

Well, I can't come down hard on hope_for_things because I understand where distrust can play a part.

First, having President Hinckley say that it's for the members to know the finances of the church and where the tithing is spent and not the general public. And as we all know, we aren't shown the numbers at all. Here is the c/p of the conversation: 

Helmut Nemetchek:‘In my country, we say the people’s Churches–the Protestants, the Catholics–they publish all their budgets, to all the public. ‘

Hinckley:‘Yeah. Yeah. ‘

Helmut Nemetschek:‘Why is it impossible for your Church? ‘

Hinckley:‘Well, we simply think that that information belongs to those who made the contribution, and not to the world. That’s the only thing. Yes.'

Second, the firing of most the janitors and having the members clean the churches, clear down to poop on the bathroom stall doors, been there done that. When I say clean, it's the majority of the cleaning of the buildings. My assigned day is tomorrow night and I'm trying to figure out how to do this and get ready for a family gathering with my kids and son and his wife from Idaho. I might have to skip out. 

So how come the church with it's billions, fires these janitors? 

So I see where HFT is coming from and the need to get the facts, but I'm trying to be a believer in the latest thing with the Giving Machines and with having fun opportunities to help globally! 

Edited by Tacenda

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10 hours ago, HappyJackWagon said:

Like Bluebell you seem to think the church is incapable of knowing what the general need is. Sure, there can be some variation, but if they've done any homework at all, they're not going to collect for 5000 goats when realistically they only need 1000.

Totally agree, barring some unforeseen, big calamity. However, what if we are only talking about a difference of 1, 5 or even 20 goats? This is more realistic, yet some might want to know ahead of time the money for 5 goats actually went to buying 1 cow instead. Would you be one of them?

Quote

If the church can't assess the need accurately, like you and Bluebell seem to be suggesting, maybe they shouldn't be trying to meet those needs. If the church doesn't have a handle on what is needed they probably shouldn't collecting to fulfill that need.

I'm seriously amazed by the level of ineptitude people assign to the church and are seemingly ok with. Maybe the church shouldn't be in the charity business if they are truly as incapable as you guys think.

I think the giving machines are a great idea. I simply want them to follow through with the concept by allowing people to choose where to donate, and then have the church actually follow through with that.

See the source image

When people walk up to one of these machines this is essentially what they see. I wonder how many search for the disclaimer prior to donating, as if they would actually expect a need to find and read a disclaimer

 

9 hours ago, Calm said:

Of course the Church is capable of finding out the needs.  It is whether or not that is a better use of money than spending it on the actual needs to put it in the hands of the needy.  The Church saves a huge amount of money by often choosing the best established charity to work with in an area rather than going in and redoing the work already done by others.

And it is not just money. It is relationships that the church will never be able to establish, systems that are already working efficiently etc. 

Edited by Rain
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4 hours ago, blueglass said:

100% disclosure means we can go download publically available reports for each item  purchased through donated funds.  Please send me the links to the reports.

Actually 100% disclosure is relative to whatever we are talking about.  The claim was that they are not transparent in that the funds may or may not go to the item purchased in the giving machine.  My response is that there is no deception there at all, with full disclosure that their funds may be used for a greater need determined by the charity.

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10 hours ago, MiserereNobis said:

Oops. You've shown your hand, HFT. This isn't about the giving machines or transparency. It's about your disdain for the LDS church and its members. No wonder this whole thread is rather absurd. You are using one thing (giving machines) as the cover for an attack on another (the LDS church).

It's no longer the rather tame (by absurdist theatre standards) "Waiting for Godot." We've moved on to "Endgame" now. How far will we go?

I think it is healthy and important for people to be honestly self critical of the groups that they are a part of, and to try and understand and envision the ways in which things can be better.   I see this as a strength to my Mormonism, not a weakness.  

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9 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Yep. As I noted above, this whole absurd exercise is a glimpse into the critical mindset more broadly.

It might be an exercise into the tribal mindset as well.  

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8 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Non-profits are legally obligated to abide by certain rules as a condition of their non-profit status.  Since the IRS is now being defunded by the Trump Admin in order to prevent them from investigating and enforcing such rules, keeping tabs on non-profits will be much more difficult.  The LDS Church, however, operates with such internally rigid rules that it is unlikely that anyone could get away with anything.  At the same time, the LDS Church underwrites all administrative costs with tithing funds so that humanitarian contributions are never needed to be spent on anything but directly helping those in need.  All charitable organizations publish the percentage of the contributions they receive which are actually used to help people.  Most such organizations spend huge percentages of their intake on advertising and administration.  Too little actually ends up being spent on the needy.

Watchdog agencies (including Consumer Reports) actually ride herd on most U.S. charities (those required to file an IRS Form 990).  CharityWatch, for example, which uses a letter-grade rating system, gave National Veterans Services Fund an "F" and the National Military Family Association an "A."  To become accredited by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, as another example, a charity is required to spend at least 65 percent of its total expenses on charitable efforts and no more than 35 percent of its contributions on fundraising.

However, since the LDS Presiding Bishop is not required to file an IRS Form 990, such watchdog agencies do not report on it.

I hadn't heard about the latest Trump controversy with the IRS, that does sound unfortunate.  However, I'm not personally familiar enough with the current IRS rules and governance of those rules to know whether those rules would even address all the potential concerns about how much of the money goes to people in need.  

The fact that churches are exempt from reporting in the same way as other charitable organizations is what makes this so difficult.  I have made many comments about how I think this should change in the future, and how I would like to see the USA follow the lead of other developed countries that require more financial transparency from religions.  

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13 hours ago, Tacenda said:

whoa :(

And this is the problem with the lack of transparency.  On the outside it looks like you raised a lot of money for emergency relief but didn't spend it.  In the following years I recall news articles about the church working with local relief agencies and they did likely provide much more aid than the financial statements suggest.

The hording of fast offerings is a bit more curious to me. I'm willing to go hungry so someone else doesn't have to and therefore I've always been under the impression that donations would be used to help the poor and needy in the present not to build up a long term fund.  As I recall when I looked at 10 years of the UK financials only about 1/3 of the fast offerings collected were used in the average year and the restricted fund balance had grown quite large before being eventually sent to the hq in Salt Lake. 

Phaedrus 

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It would be interesting to find out how many goats could have been purchased by what it costs to manufacture and maintain each machine.

 

 

Edited by CA Steve

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21 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

It would be interesting to find out how many goats could have been purchased by what it costs to manufacture and maintain each machine.

 

Why? The Church has stated that all administrative costs will be born by itself to ensure that 100% of donations go to assist each charity chosen by each donator. 

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39 minutes ago, phaedrus ut said:

And this is the problem with the lack of transparency.  On the outside it looks like you raised a lot of money for emergency relief but didn't spend it.  In the following years I recall news articles about the church working with local relief agencies and they did likely provide much more aid than the financial statements suggest.

The hording of fast offerings is a bit more curious to me. I'm willing to go hungry so someone else doesn't have to and therefore I've always been under the impression that donations would be used to help the poor and needy in the present not to build up a long term fund.  As I recall when I looked at 10 years of the UK financials only about 1/3 of the fast offerings collected were used in the average year and the restricted fund balance had grown quite large before being eventually sent to the hq in Salt Lake. 

Phaedrus 

5

Were the needs of the saints being met? Did someone go hungry due to the Church restricting the release of funds?

Edited by Storm Rider

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20 hours ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I did answer your question. I said...

When the need for goats is accomplished, stop accepting money for goats.

But I asked what you personally would like the charity to do when the goat has already been purchased but the need no longer exists.  That's the question you haven't answered.  

Quote

I admit that I cannot fathom why this would not be a simple task. In a day and age when everything is tracked electronically, when vendors track supplies, merchandise, sales via sales software, I can't understand how the church could accidentally sell an extra 20,000 goats and then be stuck with the donated funds they need to distribute elsewhere.

But who said anything about an extra 20,000 goats?  What if the church accidentally sold 5 or 2 extra goats?  With so many people donating constantly, that would be really easy to do.  What would personally like the church to do with the donated money in a case like that? 

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