In case you haven’t noticed it is indeed that time of year again. It is time to make that list and check it twice. You know as much as I do that the list you make is mostly what you need to buy. But it is kind of fun too. It is an excuse to buy things, and being from a consumerist society we just love to buy things… especially if we have an excuse. So we gather up the catalogues and start planning….
- Caia: puppets
- Kevin: new chef’s knife
- Jane: potter’s mugs for morning coffee
- Johnny: bumper car
- Granny: gardening tools
- Grandpa: latest Beatles box set
- Kenyan farmer: cow
- Guatemalan child: school supplies
Wait a minute? What just happened there. Oh right… some of my catalogues are from charitable organizations. And it is just as much fun to choose a specific item for my annual charitable giving as it is to buy a sweater for my brother… check that… it is more fun to buy a cow than a sweater! How cool is that?! And how easy?! And gee, I really like that I know I am buying this dude a cow and that kid her school supplies.
Okay, I am just joking around. I didn’t do that (but I do really want those mugs!). I know it is easy and satisfying on multiple levels to do your charitable giving this way. But it can also be highly problematic. I even tried out the buy a cow charitable campaign with friends and family 5 years ago. (And I bet the image I used for my campaign was way cooler than any you will find in a catalogue.) Read more about it at this link.
When people bring up charitable giving (particularly in regards to international work) I have a very hard time keeping my mouth shut. So since it is the season… let me indulge my desire to give some well meaning advice.
1. Choose an organization that focuses on empowering people rather than creating a dependency.
Sponsoring a child creates dependency. That child and that community will continue to depend on you or others to pay for their daily needs and schooling. Why not support programs that help empower the children’s parents to pay for their own children’s schools and needs? If you are a parent you understand how important it is to care for your own children. This year contribute to an organization that gives people access to tools and knowledge they need to improve their work and business opportunities.
2. Choose an organization that encourages local enterprise.
Sending items overseas not only creates dependency but it destroys opportunity for local enterprise. I have to say it- spending $30 here to buy a washable menstrual kit that was made here and has to be shipped overseas is just insanity! Instead, why not sponsor an organization that employs local people to make the kits for much less, sells them at much much lower price, and does community outreach to tackle taboos related to the issue?
3. Make sure you believe in the organization’s beliefs.
When you donate to a charitable organization tackling AIDS that focuses on abstinence and monogamous marriage then you are reinforcing that organization’s belief system. And you are contributing to a program that is going to fail. Do your research and donate to an organization that takes into account all variables and local cultures.
4. Make sure the organization you donate to is behaving with the best interest of their recipients at heart.
An orphanage that portrays the children as pathetic, teary eyed, and fly ridden is very good at tugging at your heart strings. But to me it says they will do almost whatever it takes to tug at your heart strings. Instead donate to an organization that promotes hope and does not reinforce stereotypes of victim and saviour.
And yes, in case you are wondering, I have 5 lovely examples of organizations you can donate to…. information on them in my next post. But if you are itching to get started I highly recommend you check out:
- AFRIPads (social enterprise)
- Solar Sister (social enterprise)
- Project Somos (foster community)
- FAVL (community library development)
- TASO Uganda (AIDS outreach etc etc)
I would like to encourage commenters to add to what I have started here!