I remember getting really excited about the idea of Heifer International, giving donations that would buy need people around the world cows and goats. Until, that is, I read the (very) fine print and discovered that my gift would not in fact buy someone an actual cow or goat, but would go into the charity’s general fund.
The prices in this catalog represent the complete livestock gift of a quality animal, technical assistance and training. Each purchase is symbolic and represents a contribution to the entire mission of Heifer International. Donations will be used where needed most to help struggling people.
How many actual cows or goats emerged at the other end was uncertain.
How unfortunate therefore to see a great group like Oxfam stoop to the same tactic. If you read their online pitch for Oxfam America Unwrapped you could easily come to believe that your gift of $75 would actually buy someone an actual cow.
But that’s not how it works:
In technical terms (what the lawyers tell us we need to explain):
Oxfam America works in 26 countries around the world. This catalog contains gift items that symbolically represent our work. The items selected represent project goals from grants disbursed by our seven offices around the world. The purchase of each gift item is a contribution toward Oxfam America’s many programs, not a donation to a specific project or goal. Your donation will be used where it is needed the most–to help people living in poverty throughout the world.
Or, as the FAQ says:
Am I really buying a camel?
First off, let’s be clear: Neither you nor your gift recipient will receive a camel (other than the handsome photo on the gift card). When you buy a camel from Oxfam America Unwrapped, you are actually giving much more. The impact of your donation will have far-reaching effects. In each case, your donation will be used where it is most needed. For more information, click on the “How it Works” tab (at the top of the page).
Does a camel really cost $175?
Since our gifts are symbolic, these prices represent a suggested donation. We have drawn from a range of gifts so that you can make a donation that is meaningful—and fits your budget!
Good causes, especially Oxfam, but I don’t like the tricksy marketing.
I’m not sure what the going rate is for a camel, but I suspect that when you “give a camel” you are not giving a camel, not to mention “so much more” — the going rate for a camel seems to be £300 to £2,000. If so, that $175 will thus buy at most half of one of the mangiest variety.
[If all went according to plan, I'm just back from Italy now, but very jet lagged. And I am leaving for my next trip ... tonight. So I've queued up some more posts to cover for me. This is one of them.]