Good Intentions Blog
GoodIntentions was a blog about international philanthropy hosted by Saundra Schimmelpfennig between 2009 and 2012. Ms. Schimmelpfennig is a distinguished veteran of more than 20 years in the international relief and development field, including four years working in Thailand following the 2004 tsunami. She is founding director of The Charity Rater and was also founding director of the Disaster Tracking Recovery Assistance Center.
Are you prepared to help others in the most effective and efficient way possible? When disasters strike, many people’s first impulse is to collect food or clothing; it is not unusual for community and local groups to collect thousands of pounds of material – typically used clothing, canned food and bottled water – realizing only afterward that they do not know whether it’s actually needed, how they will transport it or who will distribute it.
If I understand correctly, three times a year donors travel to the reservation for a traditional Navajo ceremony. During this ceremony the donations are given, and the money from the sale of the rugs presented to the weavers. Although my acquaintance described the ceremony as very moving, I question it on several levels.
To ensure that your money is doing the good you intended you have to look past aid agency advertising, name recognition, and “happy stories”, and instead look for evidence that the aid agency is following best practices and constantly improving their organization.
You see a commercial on TV or receive an advertisement in the mail with the picture of someone in need. You reach for your checkbook to donate. But before you stamp the envelope or click the “donate now” button, imagine that instead of it being someone else far away, it is an image of you, your child, or you family. Now ask yourself these four simple questions…
Dependency, malnutrition, illness and death can be unintended consequences of donating baby formula overseas. NICEF, WHO and WFP call for support for appropriate infant and young child feeding in certain emergencies, but caution against unnecessary and potentially harmful donations of breast-milk substitutes.
Manage your expectations: Although volunteering overseas can be a life-changing experience, it’s also one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Many people have an unrealistic expectation that their experience will be as glamorous as it seems in the Kashi commercials.