Give to Charity, Carry Out Due Diligence Twice

Aug 7 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

We have been deep into the rainy season, kiremtin Amharic, for a while. People have varying opinions about it. Many say they sleep a lot better to the ambience of the pitter-patter of the raindrops while others loath the subsequent mud. For as far back as I can recall, kiremthas always made me feel grateful and sad at the same time. The former is because I have a warm bed sheltered from the extremes of nature. Sometimes, we underestimate how good we have it.

It is also sad because homeless people are scattered throughout the country, especially in cities, unable to get a good night’s sleep. The most they can make do with on the streets is makeshift plastic shelters, which offer inadequate protection from the unforgiving rain and cold. In such times, we are thankful for those who give what they have to contribute to the most vulnerable. This is where non-profit organisations should make the most difference. Even if they help just one person, that is significant.

Unfortunately, things are not that easy. Last week, over a cup of tea korenti(warm ginger tea mixed with a drop of strong alcohol such as Areqe), a friend of mine told me about how some NGOs work and how these things tend to be less philanthropic than they seem to be at first sight.

If one wishes to open an NGO, the founder is usually the director and then requires endorsement by board members. This is then submitted for approval and licensing by the government, and the board collects the funds for the various philanthropy activities after presenting their project to donors. There are always administrative costs attached, aside from the funds meant to go to projects since someone needs to run the NGO.

The director can name his salary and, in many cases, also gets housing and a car. This specific individual that my friend was telling me about also received these benefits. At just 30 years old, his salary is a cool 220,000 Br a month while driving around in an eight million Birr SUV.

How many people have been the beneficiary of this NGO thus far?

None. The programme is still in its "research phase." Most such non-profit organisations insist that they need to pay their workers competitive salaries to attract the best talent. This has some logic to it, but it does not explain why salaries in NGOs are far and above other fields that would pay competitive salaries as well, such as financial institutions. Neither do the stories of nepotism imbue observers with confidence about the work of these institutions.

There are a myriad of charitable organisations in Ethiopia. Many of them are critical to improving the lives of the vulnerable, especially in situations such as drought, where people need immediate food assistance. But such institutions should also be looked at more keenly to ensure that no funny business is happening.

A woman recently showed up at my doorstep telling me she was from a charity association and asked me to buy a ticket to help support the elderly and the needy. I often get sceptical over such requests, but I give them the benefit of the doubt, regardless. Thus I bought a 50 Br ticket, which had a stamp on it and looked legitimate. But this is small consolation given that people that attempt to exploit also get sophisticated with time.

We should research more thoroughly the organisations and the people we are giving money to; otherwise, we could be getting swindled. There is, for instance, a viral Telegram bot that claims to be collecting donations for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). After a bit of inspection by a tech-savvy friend, we found out that it was a scam. The people behind it were attempting to exploit the national mood.

It pays to doubt and question things in this day and age. But it is what it is; be warned.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 07,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1110]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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