THE PROBLEM WITH CHARITIES – In a nutshell: like the government and the bureaucracy their mostly interested in self-perpetuation and growth.

Big charities in Australia are spending up to 98 per cent of donations on themselves instead of their causes, says Professor Charlie Teo.

The globally renowned neurosurgeon walked away from the brain cancer charity he set up in 2003, because of the huge amount of money spent on administration.

Charities have burgeoned into a $103 billion industry in Australia which now accounts for almost 10 per cent of the workforce, he said in an interview with Weekend Sunrise.

“People don’t quite understand that a lot of the money they donate, hard-earned money, goes to the running of the charity and not to the cause itself,” the 60-year-old told the show.

“The defence is they need to spend this amount of money to run the charity. I can tell you I think that is untrue.

“The public would object if they knew the CEOs were driving a company car, putting it in company space, travelling first class, doing any travel at all.

“It is all about volunteerism. It is all about the cause, not the running of the charity itself. There is no reason why these cannot run lean.”

He pointed to ACNC figures which show some of Australia’s big charities are spending up to 98 per cent of donations on running costs.

Professor Teo is essentially correct. There are better and worse charities as far as the admin costs are concerned, but you would be surprised how little, on average, of every dollar you donate ends up actually directly helping the cause close to your heart. The charity sector is now well and truly an industry – so even if you are disappointed only a few of your hard earned cents go towards curing cancer or helping the homeless, at least you can rest easier in the knowledge that you are helping to provide jobs for almost 10 per cent of Australian workforce, thus majorly contributing to lower unemployment.

I’m kidding; it still sucks. Be an educated giver and research your causes and your charities. As I said, there are some which are better than others as far as the bang for your buck.

Another problem, not mentioned by the good Professor, is that many charities, particularly in the field of environment and social policy, do preciously little of hands-on work and instead lobby governments and run political campaigns. This is not a job for a charity, and these organisations should not be subsidised through a concessionary tax treatment of donations, in effect using taxpayers’ money to lobby for more taxpayers’ money to be spent on their pet cause.

Bear all this in mind particularly this Christmas season when you will be hit up for money even more than you normally are.