Five years ago, Oxfam started the Unwrapped giving program, giving Australians the chance to buy their friends and family a different kind of present – one that also contributes to our work helping people out of poverty around the world.

A goat or, alternatively, a piglet

It’s a concept that many charities use in one form or another. It’s proved to be popular, and we hope it will become even more so.

It works like this - you chose a present, maybe a goat, maybe a pile of poo. You get a fun gift card to give as the present and Oxfam gets money to continue our work. That might not necessarily mean that we use the money to buy a goat for a poor family overseas, (a goat might not always be the solution), but we will use it for an agriculture related program that helps people grow food to be able to feed their family, and maybe make some money to send their children to school. How your money will be used is explained on our Unwrapped website when you buy your gift.

The money Oxfam receives from the Unwrapped giving program makes a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people. As the Executive Director of Oxfam Australia I’ve had the privilege of visiting communities in many of the 28 countries around the world where we work and seeing that impact first hand.

In East Timor, where the Unwrapped gift of “seeds” means farmers can improve the yield of their crops, as well as improve their family’s nutrition.

In Sri Lanka, where the gift of “start a small business” allows women and men to start their own enterprise like brick making, tailoring or spice grinding, thereby earning an ongoing living.

So I’m convinced, but what about you? How do Australians who use the Unwrapped program, and who donate money to charities know that their money is making a difference?

Understandably, some people will be sceptical about where their money goes. That’s why Oxfam takes seriously our responsibility to tell you how we spend your money. We believe it’s better for us if people understand how we operate and why we do what we do.

When you visit the Oxfam website, you can see a breakdown of all our costs as well as numerous examples of our work. All our accounts are independently audited and we’re a member of the peak body for international development charities in Australia, ACFID, which has a strict industry code.

The breakdown of our spending includes listing how much we spend on our programs and advocacy work, how much we spend on administration, how much we spend on fundraising and promotion.

Oxfam is not alone in its efforts to be transparent. Many reputable charities in Australia know how important it is that we show we’re using donors’ money effectively and that we do our best to keep our supporters informed.

The sector is not perfect – and we’re always looking for ways we can improve. In fact, Oxfam believes that Australia could further build public confidence and trust in charities by establishing an Independent Charities Commission, similar to one that has operated in England and Wales for more than five years. Oxfam made this recommendation to a Senate inquiry last year, and it’s one we hope the Australian Government takes seriously.

In the meantime, buy a goat of support Oxfam through other ways. The information is there to show that your gift will not just make you feel good, but will make a real difference.

Most commented

38 comments

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    • Eric says:

      11:42am | 12/01/10

      Oxfam is a left-wing political lobby group.

    • Mr Pastry says:

      11:59am | 12/01/10

      Having been a purchaser of Oxfam’s donation cards I felt it was a marketing and revenue raising gimmick to help to promote and get funds for this Christian organisation.  I have resolved this by finding a charity who’s cards are less of a marketing exercise and stick more closely to the donators intention http://practicalaction.org/home I appreciate Oxfam does some good work but they are a religious organisation and needs to be supported by its members as it comes with its own agenda.

    • Renee says:

      12:04pm | 12/01/10

      Brilliant article, Andrew. Thank you for explaining the process clearly!

    • Margaret Gray says:

      12:07pm | 12/01/10

      Andrew,

      I ‘d like to hear your organisations plan for reducing third world poverty and ‘tackling’ “climate change” at the same time.

      The two are quite incongruous and, based on Oxfams stated global emissions reduction objective of 40% below 1990 levels, absurdly ridiculous and economically catastrophic for those you deem the “most vulnerable”.

      I want the San in the Kalahari to have the opportunity to buy an airconditioner and nurse a cold beer in front of the World Cup.

      But destroying the First World will not give any economic succour to the Third.

      This means development of the land and its resources to lift them out of the generational poverty and bleak future they currently experience.

      Why do you and organisations like Oxfam - guided by a unsubstantiated and highly politicised agenda - actively seek to deny them this opportunity?

    • AdamC says:

      12:09pm | 12/01/10

      This reads like a promotion – has there been some controversy about these charitable gift cards or something? I remember reading a couple of articles before Christmas, mainly of the painfully naive ‘What, they don’t just send the family the piglet’ variety, but nothing much. I congratulate charities for finding new ways to raise funds for development programmes and, if you’re not (seriously) misleading anyone, there is no problem.

      Though, I must stress, I find the idea of giving a charity gift card to someone as a present hopelessly tacky. So, on a commercial level, it doesn’t work for me, but that’s hardly a hanging offence!

    • Bob H says:

      12:20pm | 12/01/10

      @Renee - brilliant comment Renee,  thats what friends are for I guess

    • DocBud says:

      12:40pm | 12/01/10

      I’d never give a charitable gift card and wouldn’t appreciate receiving one. One of the particular dangers would be causing offense by donating to a charity that the receiver does not support. Im my case that includes Oxfam, World Vision and any other charity that advocates (i.e. peddles politics and misinformation) on climate change.

      My wife and I make a point of checking out charities before we give and any which advocate on climate change or take other political stances miss out. There are lots of charities who just get on with doing what the donors think they are doing without feeling the need to push an agenda.

      If Oxfam really wanted to reduce poverty, they’d support global economic growth rather than try to impede it. India and China in recent years have demonstrated that economic growth is a certain way to lift people out of poverty whereas we are learning more and more of the uncertainty of the reality of AGW and its supposed impacts.

    • Rhiannon Elston says:

      12:46pm | 12/01/10

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for your response. I think Oxfam are a great company, however I question the need for charities to cloak donations in such a way. There would be outrage if a private sector company did the same thing.

      An Independent Charities Commission is an excellent idea; I hope the Australian Government supports this.

    • Renee says:

      01:03pm | 12/01/10

      Bob H, I was simply sharing my response to Andrew’s article. It indeed clears up some of the confusion that seemed to be floating around after Rhiannon’s article.

      Mr. Pastry - I wasn’t aware that Oxfam is what you would call a “religious group”? I am fairly certain it is not a Christian organisation - in fact this is stated on many of the Oxfam websites around the world?

      Margaret - what do you make of the idea that majority of aid agencies and organisations are wanting to tackle the issue of climate change because they are concerned it will undo around 50 years of work? Clearly you think they are not properly educated on this issue, which is your opinion. But I am interested in finding out more about your side of the debate. If you don’t mind sharing, I’d be interested in seeing the opinions of some organisations who are against dealing with the issue of climate change, and have actually done aid or project development work to show that they are concerned with eradicating poverty for these people. I’m also interested in what you think of the fact that reports from our neighbours in the Pacific Islands are also pushing for us to face up to climate change? Also, what do you think about the suggestion that organisations like the World Health Organisation and UNICEF have made that climate related diseases (eg. malaria, diarrhoea, malnutrition) are killing more children each yeah, or the estimation that climate change could contribute between 40,000 - 160,000 extra child deaths a year (within Asia and the Horn of Africa)? Agricultural communities within Africa are also struggling with the insane changes in weather as more reports come through from farmers of the diffiulties they are having with unpredictable rainfall. From your post, I am under the impression that you don’t believe climate change exists. If you don’t mind me asking, issues of climate change aside, in what ways are you choosing to engage in issues of third world poverty and helping those suffering from it?

    • Jimbob says:

      01:18pm | 12/01/10

      Lol Eric thinks his comment is an insult. In answer to Margaret’s question/comment I think the answer to both poverty and climate change is rational use of resources. The use of resources today of all kinds is completely irrational because they are based on financial markets rather than actual human or ecological need, for example the utter insanity of thousands of tonnes of food being dumped into the sea every month while people elsewhere suffer malnutrition. Same with our effect on the climate, widespread expansion of ‘green’ tech would rationally reduce emissions at a very fast pace, what’s standing in the way today is financial markets and governments that are beholden to them.

    • W Shankly says:

      01:53pm | 12/01/10

      to the likes of Erci, DocBud, Mr Pastry, Margaret Gray et al. who think Oxfam are a left wing lobby group/radical bunch of Christians, is this all part of the anti-Christian sentiment that is spreading across the world, words which wouldn’t be used against fundamentalists of a certain other religious group for fear of being accused of racism or is just that you’re too tight fisted to give to a well meaning charity. Australia is one of the meanest countries with it’s contributions to charities. It’s also the most backward with their understanding of world affairs especially when it comes to immigration. Did you know that less than 3% of the world’s migrants want to come here, not exactly falling over themselves are they but from the media you’d think we’re being swamped with them.

    • Margaret Gray says:

      02:06pm | 12/01/10

      @renee

      I’m going to ignore your proselytic religious dogma on ‘climate change’ and the factless regurgitated talking points.  The climate always changes…always has.  Always will.

      “... in what ways are you choosing to engage in issues of third world poverty and helping those suffering from it…”

      Like most right-thinking people I empower those less fortunate than myself by giving them the opportunity and the tools to enrich themselves and their families rather than a gratuitous handout that makes me feel better.

      Building power stations and ports and road and rail gives people access to the world; it gives them choice and opportunity and elevates them out of the cycle of poverty.

      My ancestors did it and it worked.

      And I’m more than happy to pass that knowledge on.

      The success rate so far has been stunning.

      Much more valuable than a goat don’t you think?

    • Paolo Scimone says:

      02:12pm | 12/01/10

      Add to this the fact that many people working for major ‘Christian’ charities are not Christian. But if feeding the world’s starving, assisting third world economies is what some consider to be a deplorable Christian act, I wonder what they consider to be an honourable act.

      Oxfam is not a religious or political group. Having an opinion on issues such as world poverty or climate change for that matter is called being an active member of society, one that at least cares.

    • Razor says:

      02:53pm | 12/01/10

      Who gets the tax deduction fo rmaking the donation?

      Not the giftee!!

    • Joe Stephens says:

      03:11pm | 12/01/10

      @Margaret Gray: your ancestors did a bang up job.. there hasn’t been poverty for decades

      This goat scam is awesome, I’m buying everyone this stuff for Christmas next year. And it’s all tax deductible wooohoooo!!

    • DocBud says:

      03:25pm | 12/01/10

      W Shankly,

      What a bizarre comment. Just because people take issue with one charity does not mean they do not give to charity. My wife and I (among other donations) sponsor two children in Africa through a Christian charity. We include an additional donation to cover admin. Should they start advocating on climate change then we’d stop the admin donation but not the sponsorship. So the answer to your strange question from our perspective is: neither.

      But what on earth migration has got to do with the comments is beyond me.

    • W Shankly says:

      03:43pm | 26/01/10

      my point is that there too many small minded people who live here. They only care for themselves and have no concern for the bigger picture.

    • Eric says:

      03:55pm | 12/01/10

      @W Shankly: No.

    • The Original AJ says:

      04:04pm | 12/01/10

      Solution to those who don’t think that Oxfam should get money, because they disagree with their beliefs.

      Don’t give any to them!

      And Ms Gray, without wanting to get into a rabid argument which will never be resolved about climate change, but I think it’s made pretty clear in the article, and in the information Oxfam provides, that they don’t provide ‘handouts’, they provide, as you say, the means and tools to develop themselves.  Like giving them a breeding pair of goats, so they can breed them.

      Because a port ain’t that useful in a subsistence agriculture society, and the first step on the road to development is trading among your own community.

    • Lady Fong says:

      04:53pm | 12/01/10

      Before getting all worked up about giving or not giving a goat, have people actually checked on what goats do to the environment. They don’t chew tops off greenery, they actually pull out the whole plant, thus leading to land degradation. Now a pig or piglet is a different story. Eats scraps, gets fat very quickly etc. Better still think of turkey: cheapest, quickest source of protein and it’s Christmas time. So give, give, give.

    • Super D says:

      07:47pm | 12/01/10

      When I pay for someone to get a goat I want them to get a goat not services and products to a similar value.  When I ring pizza hut I don’t what them bringing around $20 worth of agricultural supplies.  Unethical as this practice is at least its not as bad as using paid extroverts or “chuggers” to solicit ongoing monthly contributions from members of the public going about their business.  I mean at least when you pay for a faux goat its a one off and not a goat a month with the first 11 goats going to some private goat company.

    • John T says:

      10:22pm | 12/01/10

      Your comment:
      Read the Undercover Economist (Tim Harford) ‘s piece *Why we should make life harder for aid agencies” http://bit.ly/7rwLTl . I’ve donated small amounts - more to disaster appeals - to Oxfam for several years but was surprised when a collector knocked at my door soliciting more. The Oxfam database hadn’t given the collector my details to avoid wasting his (and my) time.
      In South Australia, according to the reports supplied to the regulatory body by Oxfam http://bit.ly/7GhRtG about 50c of each dollar donated is actually distributed. Is this the same for most other overseas aid charities?
      One question for Mr Hewett: when you travel what class do you fly?

    • MikeH says:

      10:58pm | 12/01/10

      In the mid 90’s I was in Ulundi in Zululand in South Africa and staying at the Holiday Inn. The hotel in those days was an oasis amongst squatter settlements. What most intrigued me was the row of “dollar a day charity” Toyota Landcruisers that were parked outside the hotel (100% import tax on these too). At dinner I noted about 2 dozen very well fed looking “charity” workers tucking into the buffet of prawns etc. I was drawn to the contrast of what they were eating and how they were living in comparison to the squalor outside.
      A year or so later, in NZ I met with people who were contributing to this charity. They wanted to know about Africa and told me how they believed their dollar a day was helping individual kids. From what I had seen it was just feeding overweight Scandanavians, not any kids.

    • Mathew Henderson-Hau says:

      11:18pm | 12/01/10

      I just read every comment on this thread, I’ve never actually read every comment before. I have one simple thing to say.

      You’re all bloody idiots.

      Seriously, re-read what you post before you post it and think hard before hitting that ‘submit’, sure you’re hiding behind internet anonymity, but your friends and family who know what nick you’re posting under read your crap and facepalm.

    • Bill says:

      07:54am | 13/01/10

      Great Stuff Mat,

      Another internet cowboy who gets off abusing people and we are sitting around waiting for him to bless us with his thoughts.  What does it take to reach the same heights of your omnipotence?

    • Jeff Cromwell says:

      08:13am | 13/01/10

      Hey, if people want to give to charities such as Oxfam, then more power to them (I like many people make donations of time and money to differing organisations). That being said, DO IT ON YOUR OWN TIME, and STOP RUINING CHRISTMAS!

      I’m sick of turning up to the family Christmas when year after year the previously enjoyable session of present-giving (Kris Kringle) is now ridiculously boring, as every 2nd person asks for a ‘goat’ (or something similar). No real presents to open, no joyous smiles on people’s faces ... boring.

      This has nothing to do with consumerism gone wild, or any of that. And yes, Christmas is about the giving and receiving of gifts. But for God’s sake ... let’s try to keep it enjoyable, and stop making everyone else feel guilty because they were happy that they received a copy of the latest Seinfeld DVD (or whatever).

      Like I said, charity is a wonderful gesture ... but do it in your own time, and stop trying to prove to the world that you’re ‘better’ than everyone else.

    • DocBud says:

      08:45am | 13/01/10

      Mathew,

      “You’re all bloody idiots.”

      Is that the extent of your debating skills?

      I stand by my comments.

    • Margaret Gray says:

      11:36am | 13/01/10

      @The Original AJ

      “...Because a port ain’t that useful in a subsistence agriculture society…”

      Not a student of history obviously.

      I suggest you do some reading before you comment.

      Start with how Columbus bought tomatoes and potatoes back to Europe from South America.

      Then chart two of the worlds biggest subsistence agriculture crops (wheat and corn) and their movement across the globe.

      They didn’t travel by jet.

      History is such a fascinating subject.

    • Mandy McEvoy says:

      11:42am | 13/01/10

      Andrew, very noble in reply and intent but I decided to give to more direct grassroots (and many start-up) charities this year (after the past 3 years with Unwrapped) and advised like minded friends to do the same. No flashy cards and cues just money getting through.

      I understand too well the world of philanthropy and indeed Interntational Aid is a competitive one - I only applaud you for not rolling out the teery children (like some others!)  - and moreover promoting a positive message - for real change

      I suggest you look at your HR policy as well, I applied for a job with you some time last year and your head office team’s HR skills left a lot to be desired! As an investment banker, turned social entrprenuer (by choice, not by redundancy) I think I had “something” to offer - over and above the junior role I applied for - to get my start in an organisation I have consciously and financially supported over many years. Bottom up should be your focus to get the most out of your team and message so as not to get lost out there ...

      I have sinced moved onwards and definitely have no sour grapes - just some constructive criticism for an “industry” which should embrace more corporates (ex just the board level) and what we have to offer in general business acumen, implementation and practise. In no way do I/we seek to tell you how to do it - all I want is to partner with traditional NFP’s and NGO’s and walk hand- in- hand for the best outcomes but never have I had so many doors slammed in my face as my journey into philanthropy this past 14 months.

      Doing philanthropy differently (and hopefully more effectively) - is that too much to ask ?

    • Eric says:

      12:02pm | 13/01/10

      Andrew Hewett is described in his Punch bio as “Executive Director of Oxfam Australia”.

      What is his salary?

    • H of SA says:

      03:07pm | 13/01/10

      Eric, I reckon his salary would be “not enough”. People who do the hours he does for an NGO could get paid a lot more doing a similar workload for a private company.

    • Evie says:

      09:24am | 18/01/10

      Andrew’s salary is a moot point. The real issue here is that charities need a shake-up in how they ask for money. We are not ignorant givers and don’t want to be treated as such.

    • Snort says:

      12:33pm | 27/01/10

      Andrew’s salary is a point for me.  I don’t know anyone who’s salary has risen from $105,296 (2004) to $185k (2008).  A charitable 76% increase!  Can’t wait for the 2009 Annual Report. 
      I smelt a rat when we raised $10,000 at work for OXFAM’s bike challenge.  More than half our donated money paid for the airfares and accomodation for two lucky employees in need of a free holiday.  After deducting bikes and other expenses, the rest actually went into OXFAM’s ‘general’ fund.  I feel sorry for the poor South East Asians we raised money for.

    • Sue says:

      07:12pm | 28/01/10

      Has it ever been checked if these people do receive the goat.  So much money has been given to these charities Tsumani etc and they never build homes but have plenty of trips.  I have a friend getting married and she is a believer if giving the goat to someone in need.  I wish there was some way the money could be given directly to the person not for charity trips cars and lunches. Tim Costello is always overseas on World Vision Money not his own.

 

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