Scenario: you have come to know and care about a ministry in a third world country, and you are ready to help them out. Your next question is - how to send money gifts to them?
You have several options, and the choice often depends on the country to which you are sending money. Some options are not available in certain countries. I can give you some basic guidelines.
But first let me congratulate you on your kind and generous heart and your willingness to give. There are many others who would back off and drop new friends in need, like a potato too hot to touch, rather than to extend themselves a bit to send money gifts.
May I gently remind you that once word gets out among 'their friends' that you have given once, you will soon find yourself corresponding with others all begging for gifts too. This has happened to me, and I've been forced to learn to discern which are the better ones to send money gifts. Also to find ways to discern which ones can best be entrusted with a good gift of funds. People over there in the far countries have personalities and even character flaws - just like they do near us.
It is prudent to ask a lot of questions first, and pray earnestly to seek confirmation from the Lord, if that is where you should send money. Try to discern how trustworthy they are. In some cultures lying and "saving face," or saying what you want to hear, are all very common. Yes, even among Christians.
But assuming you have done all your checking and discerning, I recommend you then sit still and listen thoughtfully for the Holy Spirit to confirm to your spirit to whom and how much you are ready to give. Then of course, how to send money gifts.
This old standby, which is the most economical, doesn't work in many third world countries. In some places the postal system is so corrupt that you have no guarantee your gift will ever reach the recipients. The mail is regularly intercepted and robbed. This may not be true for every country, so you have to ask questions and make a judgement call as whether to risk it or not. From Canada to any other country is suppose to take only seven days, but in most instances, I'm resigned to expect it to take up to three weeks. (sigh!) This is not how to send money gifts any more.
PayPal is probably the best, for speed and low cost to send money from one person to another. It is available in many countries. However, there are some countries where PayPal does not trust the financial system there and doesn't have arrangments with the banks to connect to their residents' bank accounts. So the people may be able to send you money via PayPal, but they can't receive any. This has frustrated me a number of times.
You need to open a PayPal account yourself, which is free. They will deposit a few cents into the bank account you enter in your application. That money is deposited to your account, which may take a day or two, or perhaps a few more, to show up. When it does, check for the reference number attached, login to your PayPal account and report it at the right place. Then they know that they can easily connect to your account and you are set to upload money, or send some to another person's email and PayPal will pull it out of your bank account without revealing that number to anyone else. (Sending within our own country, as in Canada or USA, is free. But for international transfers, PayPal's fee structure is 0.5% to 2% per transaction (based on destination). Or, if you use your credit/debit card, PayPal charges enough to cover the card company's fees, which means it will be 2.9% to 7.4% - based on the currency received in the international country.
The recipient must open a PayPal account too, if they don't yet have one, (or, if they have one connected to a different email address, they need to login and add the one you used to send the money, to their account so they can receive the funds. Once they have accepted it, the money is immediately in their account, but to actually get it into their hands, they must have a bank account attached to their email account too. Or a credit card. Then they can transfer it over, and go to their bank or any ATM machine and withdraw as cash the gift you sent. Minus the PayPal fee.
Payza is a company similar to PayPal with some differences. People from more countries are allowed to to have accounts and to receive money, but sometimes there are delays. The procedure seems more complicated, so individuals in third world countries have trouble understanding how to open an account and work with it. I've persuaded people to try, and they just ask me to open an account for them, which I cannot do. I suppose if I were visiting in their country, I could sit beside them and help them through the steps, but that has not been possible yet.
Here you will pay 3.5% if you are uploading funds to your account by credit card, other methods are free. To convert your money to the foreign exchange costs 2.5%. Payza has three types of accounts, Starter, Personal and Business. Someone with a Starter account may receive up to $400 or even $2000 without fees. Personal and Business account holders who are receiving money from you, will have to pay 2.5% plus. 25 cents US on the donation. So if you want them to receive a specific amount you may have to send more to cover those fees for them.
Almost everyone around the world knows about wiring money by Western Union. Scammers often ask their victims to send them money via Western Union, so in some places it has a bit of a shady reputation. However the staff seem to be on a lookout for people who may be duped, as at the location nearest me, they will ask if you really know the person to whom you are sending money. It is quick and fairly easy, but you must bring cash, and though you can get a membership card which gives you a slight discount if you send money often enough, the fees can run from $14 to over $30, depending on which country to which you are sending funds.
MoneyGram in Canada is part of our postal system. I think it is possible to find an agent outside of a postal outlet, but I haven't seen one. In some ways it is similar to Western Union. The money arrives at an agent in that country electronically and so by the time you get home to email the recipient that you have sent money, and here is the Reference number, it is already there and available to them. They just need to find the nearest agent, which might be their own bank, to go collect the funds.
Here too, you can get a membership card, and if you send often enough in a 6 month period, your fee will be reduced somewhat, but every six months you start at the top fee again. That can vary according to the amount you send. But I usually find it to be $9.50 to about $14 or 15, for $100 to 200. Since I have a life-long habit of hunting for the most economical way of doing things, I prefer this method to using Western Union.
Just in 2012/2013 I've discovered that many banks and financial institutions in my own country, now allow us to send money to another person in our own country through email and Interac. It's almost like writing checks by email. The fee is $1.00 per transaction, and can be done from your cell phone. There are limits in what you can send or receive in a day, a week, or a month, but those are in the thousands of dollars. I have not tried this yet, however it sounds reasonable. It is just not available for international giving. - Yet. (Who knows what will come next, but our God?)
Cost-wise, my first preference would be a check or money order sent by mail, as that would only cost me the postage stamp. Unfortunately, several ministry contacts have discouraged that vehemently.
Of course, if you are sending to a missionary organization that has an office in your country and branch offices in the destination country, then you have it made. You see, that organization will have inter-branch and bank transfer routines set up. So you send the money gift to the office in your country, and ask them to transfer it to their branch in the destination country - perhaps even designate the person to receive it, and you have no expense in the sending. Furthermore, if you can persuade them of the urgency, they can have the money there within the day.
My directions above for how to send money gifts, are for times when you are sending to an individual or small organization that has no larger organizational ties. Often it is a national pastor there who is running an orphanage on a shoestring, or some other good work. Knowing poverty well myself, my heart goes out to them, but I do recognize that we need ways to be sure we are not duped or foolish in how to send money gifts.
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