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Ask Where Your Money is Going - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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As war rages in Lebanon, I read that certain relief organizations intend to use cell phones as a new means of collecting donations. The price of each phone call would go straight to the advertised charity. This is an effective and easy method, bound to succeed at a time when millions of people are willing to donate enthusiastically as much as they can.

But, because of unhappy previous experiences, I have become accustomed to ask questions before believing any advertisement, no matter what its source is and no matter how much I sympathize with its message.

After an initial follow-up, I found that the proposal is indeed effective, given that the biggest obstacle is how to collect donations. The majority of donors aren’t ready to queue in front of a bank. However, they are much more willing to give those standing in front of them. Cell phones can enable donors to give money, with little or no effort.

Unfortunately, I was shocked when I discovered that cell phone companies, or some of them, keep 75% of the donations and donate the rest. Less than 50 cents of every 2 dollar phone call will go to a relief organization. This heinous theft denies people in desperate need of money they depend on to survive.

The authorities need to investigate how donations are being spent. Aid workers should be held accountable for their sources of income. Governments have a duty to allow independent institutions to track the movement of funds.

Donors have the right to know where his money is going. They won’t forgive if they discover their donations where siphoned or haven’t reached their target.

Many people have, enthusiastically and with blind confidence, rushed to contact the donation hotline, believing that every dollar will pay for food, medicine or blankets. It is not my intention to discourage donors or fill them with doubt. However, the above example of telephone companies keeping the money for themselves is true. These companies should announce whether the price of phone calls will be donated entirely or whether some of it will be for profit. Charities and relief organizations should also reveal the amount of funds collected and how they will be spent. Governments should also inform their citizens how the money raised is being spent.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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