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.
USAID CIDI logoDisaster Survivors Don’t Need Bottled Water

We all know people can survive for days without food, but not without water. This tenet of human biology often drives individuals and organizations to donate bottled water in the aftermath of disaster.

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Send cash, not stuff, to help the world’s refugeesSend cash, not stuff, to help the world’s refugees

As we recognize the millions of people fleeing crisis in search of a better life, let’s focus on channeling our generosity for good.

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Good Intentions Hinder Response to Canada’s WildfiresGood Intentions Hinder Response to Canada’s Wildfires

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have heard that wildfires continue to rage in Alberta, Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported yesterday that 1,000 additional firefighters from across Canada, the United States, South Africa and other countries will soon join the 1,200-member crew working to contain the fires that have destroyed homes, land and livelihoods.

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USAID CIDI logoHere’s How to Plan Your Giving for the 2016 Hurricane Season

June 1 marks the start of Atlantic hurricane season – and as we know, it only takes one storm to significantly interrupt our summer or someone else’s.

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Practice Smart Compassion for Hurricane Preparedness WeekPractice Smart Compassion for Hurricane Preparedness Week

It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week, which is our annual reminder that it only takes one storm to significantly interrupt our summer or someone else’s.

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Don’t Wait – Communicate!Don’t Wait – Communicate!

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.

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When are aid ceremonies appropriate?When are aid ceremonies appropriate?

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.

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What to look for when evaluating an aid agencyWhat to look for when evaluating an aid agency

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.

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Aid agency advertising imagesAid agency advertising images

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...

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Four reasons to NOT donate baby formula overseasFour reasons to NOT donate baby formula overseas

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.

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Guideline #4 for volunteering overseasGuideline #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.

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USAID CIDI logoGuideline #4 for Volunteering Overseas

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 experience.

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USAID CIDI logoWhen is it appropriate for a donor to visit an aid recipient?

Reflecting on the debate over disaster/poverty tourism a couple of weeks back some bloggers, such as Tales from the Hood and Pepy Tours, have argued that there is a benefit, if done right, of donors visiting aid recipients. And, if done right, I agree. One of the common complaints after the tsunami was that donors did not come and check whether aid work was done well or learn about the real needs of aid recipients. Donors do need to have a greater understanding of what does and does not work in aid as well as common problems associated with aid. Properly structured visits can help them become better donors.

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USAID CIDI logoGuideline #3 for Volunteering Overseas

The debate over voluntarism seems to be coalescing around one point – motivation matters. Before volunteering it’s important to have an honest conversation with yourself and examine your motivations and whether putting yourself in the lives of aid recipients is the best way to meet your needs.

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USAID CIDI logoWould 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?

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USAID CIDI logoWhen will we stop praising people for giving “stuff”?

A man went down to a Kmart which was closing it's doors and purchased every single item in the store and donated the $200,000 worth of goods to a single charity. What on the outside seems like a very charitable act brings up a lot of concerns for the problems the nonprofit is likely facing as a result of this unsolicited donation.

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USAID CIDI logoMy Interview with AidWorks

My interview with AidWorks, (AidWorks is a radio show devoted exclusively to aid and development issues. We want to look at the world of international development from every angle, recognising the good that is being done but also casting a critical eye over the aid 'industry'.)

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USAID CIDI logoHOW NOT TO GIVE – By Stanford Storytelling Project

A 14 minute podcast by the Stanford Storytelling Project which discusses the 1 million shirts project, the blogosphere furor it created, and what finally happened.

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USAID CIDI logoFounder stories don’t really matter

A compelling founder story, such as Greg Mortenson's, doesn't mean that the nonprofit is successful or even moderately helpful. A boring founder story doesn't mean that the nonprofit is floundering or failing. There is no correlation between the compellingness of a founder story and the competency of their nonprofit. And yet we keep focusing on them.

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USAID CIDI logoAl Jazeera’s The Stream Talks Aid and #Dignity2012

TMS “Teddy” Ruge, Co-Founder of Project Diaspora and Joel Charny, Vice President for Humanitarian Policy at InterAction sit down on the orange couch yesterday to discuss the way aid is marketed and disbursed in Africa. "The dehumanizing comes into the fact we have to be continually looked at as recipients, as the poor, as if the only thing we have to offer are these beans so you can buy them in your coffee," explained Teddy. That is why A Day Without Dignity came into existence last year and was held yesterday. The hope is to find ways to shift the story of Africa from a single continent of misery to a place full of many countries, people, desires, cultures and experiences.

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USAID CIDI logoA Closer Look at TOMS Shoes

Tomorrow is TOMS shoes annual One Day Without Shoes publicity event. I thought it would be a good time to highlight this podcast by Tiny Spark which takes a critical look at the founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, as well as how TOMS shoes operates.

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USAID CIDI logoAnnouncing A Day Without Dignity 2012 – Local Champions

We are happy to announce that A Day Without Dignity, 2012 will be held on Monday, April 16th. This year's event will focus on Local Champions. The theme was chosen to show an alternative to awareness raising events that often focus on Whites in Shining Armor at the expense of the dignity of the people they're trying to help.

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USAID CIDI logoLet’s just stone the whores

You should not be having sex and to stop this we will prevent you from getting any birth control. We will remove birth control from insurance policies and shut down Planned Parenthood office across the country. If you have the audacity to question this, we'll have filthy public discussions where we all hypothesize about your sex life.

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USAID CIDI logoThe Anniversary of A Day Without Dignity

Today is the one year anniversary of A Day Without Dignity - a counter campaign to TOMS Shoes One Day Without Shoes. The campaign was a bigger success than we could have hoped for with over 70 posts and three videos created for the event. The Day Without Dignity video has been viewed over 28,000 times (I know it's nothing compared with KONY 2012, but still pretty good I think) and is used by professors and college clubs to discuss the issue of donated goods. The video and compilation post are regularly linked to by bloggers and student newspapers trying to help their readers understand how good intentions do not necessarily equal good aid.

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USAID CIDI logoInteresting posts and arcticles

I am still in Utah caring for my mother as well as preparing for my upcoming wedding. The following were the articles I found interesting in what little time I've spent on the web. Many of these articles are KONY related.

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USAID CIDI logoKONY 2012

I have to admit, I haven't been following the KONY debate raging online. I didn't even know the debate was happening until I got 5,000 + hits to my blog in one day from people that had linked to my blog from their own KONY posts.

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USAID CIDI logoInteresting articles and posts

Once again, I've waited far too long to put this together. Here are many of the articles and posts I've found interesting over the last month or so.

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USAID CIDI logoWorld Vision’s Addiction to SWEDOW

Instead of taking this as an opportunity to grow and improve as a professional organization, World Vision is instead clinging on to their 60 year addiction to SWEDOW.

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USAID CIDI logoNFL/World Vision Part II?

Last year's donation ignited a huge debate that got World Vision into a public image nightmare. 'm interested in whether or not the NFL will again donate the 100,000 items with logo of the team that lost the SuperBowl to World Vision.

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USAID CIDI logoPeer Coaching

There is now a collaboration between whydev and Development Crossroads, where they are launching a peer coaching matching service.

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USAID CIDI logoJobs, Jobs, Jobs

If you are one of the recent high school or college graduates struggling to find work, or someone recently "down sized" which would you want more: donated clothes or a job? Chances are you would chose a job over receiving donated clothing. In fact, if you're desperate enough you might settle for any job, even short-term or dangerous jobs just to make whatever money you can. But most people would probably rather have a job that pays a living wage, offers a few benefits, and has some job security so they don't worry about losing everything tomorrow.

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USAID CIDI logoRecent interesting links

Recent links I think will interest my readers. I can tell it's been far too long since my last links post as there are many interesting articles/posts to share.

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USAID CIDI logoGood Intentions’ Top Posts for 2011

As the year draws to an end, I thought it might be interesting to note which posts were the most popular in 2011. The results surprised me, perhaps they'll surprise you as well. Compilation posts (where I collect links to other posts and articles on a similar topic) were the overall winners.

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USAID CIDI logoThe Year Ahead

In the new year my focus will be on fewer blog posts and more resources available on the website. My hope is that by doing this I can continue being a source of information for smart giving well into the future.

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USAID CIDI logoGood Intentions’ Holiday Guide to Charitable Giving

I've created a quick and easy guide that helps you know what to look for when choosing a holiday charitable activity and how to avoid common holiday mistakes. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are when clubs, churches, businesses and families seek out charitable activities they can do together. If you are like the average American, you are probably planning on some sort of charitable giving this holiday season. Unfortunately, our needs for a holiday charitable activity are often in conflict with the needs of the people we are trying to help. This leads to projects that may meet the needs of the donors more than they meet the needs of the poor. This holiday season make sure the help you give is the help they need.

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USAID CIDI logoDaily Small Humiliations

I've said repeatedly that our waste is not the solution to other people's problems. Our waste is our problem. It is also important to remember that dignity and choice do matter. We should not ask people that have lost everything to sacrifice their dignity as well.

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USAID CIDI logoLinks from the past week

This week's interesting links include research articles, presentation notes, and a how-to resource.

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USAID CIDI logoDocuments and Disasters: Can Proper ID Save the Lives of Transgender People in Emergencies?

Ensuring the safety of transgender people is not as simple as allowing them to document their identity. And carrying around documents that mark people as such -- or even counting LGBT people -- can bring up myriad safety concerns. What is more, the definitions of gender can differ from document to document, and region to region. Currah reminds us that "for transgender people, the immense number of state actors defining sex [and gender] ensnares them in a Kafkaesque web of official identity contradiction and chaos."

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USAID CIDI logoLinks from the past week

Interesting links from the past week.

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USAID CIDI logoThe 7 Billion People Debate

A collection of posts discussing world population and the birth of the seven billionth person.

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USAID CIDI logo“Poverty is Political”

I've long felt that poverty is political as much as anything else. It seems I'm not the only person to come to that conclusion. In a recent blog post, Making Aid More Effective, Dochas summarizes points from the Istanbul Principles on Development Effectiveness and the Siem Reap Framework for Action. Here's what they found.

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