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 both despite of and because of the best intentions of donors.

How does this happen?

Concerned about aid reaching those who need it the most, many donors give to aid agencies that work quickly and cheaply. Dependent upon donors for funding and survival, aid agencies feel pressured to develop programs that are fast and cheap. Unfortunately, projects with low administration costs and fast implementation rates often have unintended consequences.

Best practices that often lose out to faster and cheaper practices include:

  • Enabling aid recipients to be active decision makers in the aid they receive
  • Conducting a needs assessment to determine the type of aid needed and where it is needed the most before developing interventions
  • Cooperating with the local government to ensure that their work is supported and not undermined by aid efforts
  • Coordinating with other aid agencies to ensure that aid is not wasted through duplicating each others work

Following best practices requires additional time and higher administrative costs.

Aid agencies often disregard best practices in order to provide quicker and cheaper aid. Although this  saves money for the individual agency, thereby pleasing donors, it leads to greater overall wasted aid, promotes graft and fraud, can lead to unnecessary aid, and can cause aid not to reach those that need it the most.

With no regulating body to enforce best practices, pleasing donors has become the overriding factor in aid agency success. Aid agencies that are effective at fund raising, regardless of the quality of their projects, will prosper and grow. Aid agencies that are ineffective at fund raising, regardless of quality of their projects, will falter and die.

Better donor practices will lead to better aid practices

The economic advantage gained by overlooking industry standards outweighs the programmatic benefits of following best practices. Aid practices will only improve when donor reward best practices.