Good Intentions Blog

Guideline #4 for volunteering overseas

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. Managing your expectation before you volunteer will help you have a more successful volunteer [...]

Would you hire a doctor or a contractor whose work was never evaluated?

Would you want your child operated on by a doctor whose work was never evaluated, even when it appeared that the way the surgery was commonly done may contribute to avoidable illness or death? Would you risk hiring a contractor to build your house if that contractor never inspected the quality of their own work [...]

How is the sweater your aunt Martha gave you similar to charitable donations?

What’s the worst present you ever received? A crazy colored sweater from your aunt Martha, questionable cookies from a neighbor, a tacky decoration from a coworker. We’ve all received those types of gifts, but have we given them as well? The gift that doesn’t fit We’ve all received that sweater, shirt, or tie that just [...]

Well-intended attempts to help after a disaster may make a confusing situation worse

The situation after a disaster can be extremely chaotic, as everyone works as quickly as they can to try and help. Adding to this chaos is an increasing number of individuals and companies traveling to the disaster scene to distribute aid. While well-intentioned, these efforts can often exacerbate the problems common to disaster relief, such [...]

Common donor misconceptions

Everyone has heard of aid agency waste and poorly implemented programs, but few people understand the underlying causes. Unfortunately, poor donor advice, heavy media coverage of “sexy” projects and locations, and aid agency advertisements targeting donor heartstrings, have made it so the average donor has many misconceptions about good donor practices. Donating based on these [...]

Bad Donor Advice Perpetuates Bad Aid Practices

The following is a copy of the comment I posted in response to the Wall Street Journal’s article Charities: Tough Times Call for Smarter Giving. While proposing to provide information on smarter giving, your article will, unfortunately, only perpetuate poor donor practices. I’ve addressed some of the problems with the advice given in Ask Before [...]

Hamburgers for Hindus

This is a modified repost from a previous month Craving beef I stopped by a McDonald’s in Indonesia looking for a hamburger. I was surprised at the menu filled with fried chicken and only one hamburger choice. Both McDonald’s and international aid are affected by market forces. At McDonald’s local tastes of the diners affect [...]

Charity Ratings Based on Administration Costs can do More Harm Than Good

The recent posting Analyze This on Philanthrocapitalism stated “In a speech at the conference, Ken Berger said that sometimes he cannot sleep for worrying that Charity Navigator’s ratings (of up to 4 stars) “may do more harm than good”. Its stars are awarded for “financial resilience”, which largely means the ratio of costs to money [...]

The Allure of the Quick Fix

“Hit the ground running” As a Crisis Corps Volunteer (part of the US Peace Corps) I was sent back to Thailand to help with the tsunami recovery efforts. Before my departure Peace Corps sent out a press release which stated: “The three resource development volunteers will be working with local governments to determine where the [...]

Fishermen harvesting fish at an ecotourism project, this project eventually failed. copyright Saundra Schimmelpfennig

Beggars can’t be choosers, but are they really beggars…

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” and “beggars can’t be choosers” are platitudes I hear when I talk about inappropriate and unhelpful aid. Misconception #1: Aid recipients can’t be choosers Those who say beggars can’t be choosers mistakenly assume that people that receive aid are begging for help and therefore any aid is [...]

D-TRAC aid agency folders - Photo by Saundra Schimmelpfennig

Choosing the right aid agency can be a daunting and frustrating task

As Director of D-TRAC in Thailand, I was regularly approached by donors wanting to fund aid agencies  helping with the tsunami recovery. With over 200 aid agencies to choose from they quickly became overwhelmed and sought advice on choosing aid agencies. The photo is of the blog’s author at D-TRAC. The blue folders are filled [...]

Best practices often lose out to quick and cheap programs that please donors

Donations can be misused and ill-spent despite the best intentions of donors Deciding whether or not to donate and which agency or project to donate to can be a daunting and frustrating task. Although donors choose aid agencies that they think will have the greatest impact, aid donations often are misused and ill-spent. This occurs [...]

Mosquito Nets, Condoms, and Recycling

From the Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation: Mosquito net manufactures are teaming up with the provincial administration and village elders in several parts of Kenya in an effort to apprehend and prosecute people who use the products for purposes other than covering beds. According to Dr Elizabeth Juma, who is the head of malaria control [...]

Lessons Not Learned

A report just released by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies titled Tsunami – Global Lesson Learned, highlighted six key lessons learned. “…facing the challenges of leadership and coordination, achieving equity in recovery, embracing people’s participation, countering corruption and ensuring accountability, innovating in disaster risk management and the fundamental question [...]

Sending sports equipment to needy children may seem like a good idea, but is it…

Sending donated items can undermine the local economy Recently the local news featured the story of an aid group seeking donations of slightly used soccer balls and shoes to send to children in Afghanistan. Although this sounds like a great way to get involved and help out sending donated goods can actually undermine the economic [...]

More resources for informed giving

  • CIDI Toolkit


    Demonstrating Smart Compassion: What You Can Do

    You can help to save lives and reduce human suffering after disasters by providing proven guidance within your community, schools, parishes, sororities and fraternities. Sound good? It is enormously good.

    Visit the toolkit to get started »

  • Donating to Disaster Relief Toolkit

    Help Where It's
    Needed Most Toolkit

    This toolkit was developed by the AdCouncil to help organizations effectively communcate the benefits of monetary doantions in support of disaster relief efforts.

    View the Disaster Relief Toolkit »

  • greatest good donation calculator

    Greatest Good
    Donation Calculator

    How much do you think it costs to send bottled water to Kinshasa? Find out »

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