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Private Charities -vs.- Government Programs

An essay for social work 132. My ideas and research regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs and charity programs.

The difference between private charity programs and government programs that help fight poverty is how the programs are funded and how the funds are dispersed. Private charities are funded on a volunteer basis by donors who choose to help finance them. Government programs obtain the financing from taxes paid by the American people on an involuntary basis. With government programs there are procedures, protocols and regulations that have to be followed. There are formulas that have to be used to determine eligibility. Unfortunately, this takes time and it is impossible for everyone to fall into one specific category, but the formula can only use data able to be entered into a computer to decide who is eligible. It cannot take into consideration other factors that a private charity can. Therefore, some people that should be eligible are not given help and others that are not eligible are given help. The government’s system lacks the ability to consider specific situations and circumstances that private charities can.


As we all know government programs are funded with taxpayers tax dollars. Private charities are funded by several sources, sometimes they even receive government funding. The amount of money that charities have to help the poor is minute compared to the government dollars spent on the fight against poverty. As posted by the Office of Management and Budget in the Department of Health and Human Services section of the White House website, in 2009, the government spent over 761 Billion dollars on the Department of Health and Human Services alone (p. 79). In 2008, U.S charitable giving was estimated to be around 307 billion dollars (Giving USA, 2009), less than half of the amount spent by the Department of Health and Human Services. With 37 million people in poverty in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau of 2007 (as cited in Kirst-Ashman, 2010, p. 206), it is apparent that neither the government or private charities can fight the war against poverty alone. We need both and we need more from each.


The time it takes to get approved for government programs can be long but private aid organizations can take immediate action if a situation calls for it. An example of the lack of fluidity possible in governmental organizations is a vehicle voucher program available to some unemployed needy families in Genesee County. The program’s intention is to provide safe and reliable transportation for the family to commute to and from work. Due to the requirements of the program some of the recipients have trouble actually redeeming the voucher and getting a car. It is required that the recipient find a car at a licensed dealer, take it to a licensed auto mechanic to be inspected, both the dealer and the auto mechanic have to sign the voucher. Then the voucher is returned to a caseworker who starts the process to actually get the money to pay for the car. This process takes between 4-6 weeks and the majority of car dealers are not willing to wait that long to sell the vehicle or do not have vehicles in stock that qualify for the program, therefore they decline participation in the program (A. Cockrum, personal communication, October 9, 2010). Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) is a non profit cooperative that links churches, volunteers, and service agencies and helps them to organize their efforts by reaching out to the poor and disadvantaged. When Sharon Griffith had a vehicle to donate Love INC was able to find a needy family and was able to send that family to the Griffith home to pick up the donated vehicle. There was no wait for the recipient at all (personal communication, October 16, 2010).

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