More

Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to be thankful for all that we have, and to help those who are less fortunate. Here at USAID CIDI, we also think it is a good opportunity to reflect on how we give – today and throughout the year – and what gifts make the most impact.




Our mission at USAID CIDI is to encourage monetary donations to trusted relief organizations on this day and throughout the year to maximize our collective impact, particularly when donating in the wake of a natural or complex emergency. We know from experience that monetary donations to trusted relief organizations enable relief workers on the ground to provide more people with what they need, when they need it.

To share with our readers why we at USAID CIDI feel so passionately about giving monetary donations, we have compiled a series of blogs that share the personal reasons why we give cash. Below, you will find our first posting from our Director Juanita Rilling, who reminds us that BOGO is more than just a holiday shopping perk. Enjoy Juanita’s take below and stay tuned for perspectives from the rest of our team leading up to Giving Tuesday!

 I love a free gift with purchase. My home is a shrine to freebies, from a colorful collection of sample-sized cosmetics to bags of flavored coffee to BOGO pairs of shoes, I love getting extra goodies from a single buy.

This is also why I donate cash to relief organizations. In the hands of experienced, reputable relief organizations, monetary donations save thousands of lives and bring ancillary benefits too. Charitable organizations use cash donations to purchase needed supplies locally, which saves thousands of dollars in transportation costs, leaves no carbon footprint and supports local merchants, which speeds economic recovery. Local purchases also ensure that goods are fresh and familiar to survivors, culturally appropriate and, in the case of equipment, locally supportable. And funding that might have been spent on transportation of goods can be used to support more survivors. Even tiny cash donations combine to achieve these BOGO impacts, in addition to supporting disaster-affected people.

In contrast, material donations are one-dimensional. For example, Katherina Rosqueta, executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that food banks can get what they need for “pennies on the dollar.” She estimates that they pay about 10 cents a pound for food that would cost $2 per pound retail. Faced with the choice of feeding a family for $1 or donating a single can valued at $1 – wait – is this even a choice? I’ll give $5 or more because I want my donation to do as much good as possible. Helping more people is the best free gift.

 

“The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”
– The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo





Recent trends highlight the satisfaction of decluttering one’s life; to let go of sentimental attachments to things, and to live more fully with less ‘stuff’. Marie Kondo’s book was a New York Times Best-Seller and flew off the shelves this past summer. Why? A fervent rush to ‘tidy-up’? Not quite. People are recognizing the freedom and joy that comes with owning less. The main take-away from “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is to only surround oneself with what brings joy.

But then, what do we do with all of our discarded stuff?

It is satisfying to give someone something they need. I recently went through my closest to give away items I did not need nor use. All it took was a quick call to my local women’s shelter to determine if they had need for my used clothes and jewelry. Subsequently, I drove my donated goods over to the shelter and knew exactly to whom I was giving my in-kind donations. Not only was I paring down but also giving to a good cause.

If I had not called my local women’s shelter and determined their need, I most likely would have dumped my donations in one of those metal boxes in the grocery store parking lot. I would not have known if my things were needed, nor have seen who it was that my donations were going to, or whether all of it was sold as scrap cloth. Too many mysteries and not enough empowerment – I’d rather give locally!

This holiday season, as we seek to help those in need and share the wealth we have been given—let’s consider needs in our own communities. Blankets, winter clothes and food for local shelters that house the homeless in these cold winter months. At the end of the day, we want to give, but its best and most satisfying to donate locally when giving away goods.

More

 

“The reason I chose to give cash over in-kind donations is because cash is the one gift that can become many. Like a seed, when money is planted it blossoms into more than the eye could ever imagine.”

 




For as long as I can recall, I’ve been a selfless person. Giving has always been one of my favorite things to do. I believe the reason I enjoy giving so much is because I enjoy seeing others’ smile. I feel rewarded when I can encourage or facilitate happiness in someone else’s life. Happiness is contagious and in order for me to be truly happy, I need the people in my world to be happy. I also have a team-oriented mentality. I believe that no one can get far without help and guidance from someone other than themselves. If each individual brings his or her strengths to the table then we all benefit; we all win whatever challenge we face in that moment. Each and every person has strengths, and when he or she shares that strength, it is a gift to the world. A gift to me is like a seed; once planted in soil, it blossoms into a beautiful plant or flower that helps give life to many things around us.

There was a time in my life when I was homeless. I worked about 40-55 hours a week but, with the amount of bills I had, it always seemed like I couldn’t catch up. At one point my bank account had a max of $12.16; no food, no home to call my own, and the distance between that day and the next pay day would depress most people. In my mind, my bank account was low but my spirit remained at an all-time high; I could just feel abundance surrounding me.

My cell phone then turned off and the only way I could communicate was through emailing whenever I got to Wi-Fi. I emailed one of my good friends and explained my situation and I asked for help. I told her my phone was off and this was my only way of communicating with the world for now. Without hesitation, she transferred $100 to my account. She could’ve easily said “let me call the phone company and pay with my card”, but instead she transferred money to me without even asking how much I needed. My cell phone bill was $75 and after I paid it, I had a surplus of $25. That $25 on top of the $12.16 that I already had helped me get food for the week for myself and the friend that let me sleep on the couch at that time.

My friend didn’t know exactly what I needed, but she knew I was in need. Because she was in the place to help, she was able to give me money to help myself and, in return, I helped others.

Since those days, my life is significantly better. I continued to work hard, pay my bills, take care of my friends that helped me and I was rewarded with a promotion. From that promotion came a home with my name on the lease. And eventually, after that home came a new career. Because I continue to live this abundant life, I give to those that are less fortunate and in need. I give to my friends, I donate money to charity and churches, and I give money to the homeless when I can. I’ve always loved giving and now that I am in a position to give, I give cash.

There is nothing that can compare to the face of a person you just gave money to when they ask for it or when they least expect it. Most people have concerns about where their money goes and if it goes to the right place, but those are never concerns of mine because when I know there is a need, money can do more than it can’t. The reason I chose to give cash over in-kind donations is because cash is the one gift that can become many. Like a seed, when money is planted it blossoms into more than the eye could ever imagine.

Paris Jackson, Information Management Specialist for The Center for International Disaster Information

More

“If everyone donates cash, the effect is cumulative and more tangible as such aggregate impact would improve the lives of not only the recipients but would also boost the local economy.”

I donate cash because I know that cash can be used for many needs. As the recipients know their needs better than I do, donating cash avoids my second-guessing of their critical needs. For example, instead of sending clothing to some needy families in Somalia, I donate cash so they can determine how to best use that cash. The critical decision of whether to have a change of clothing or necessary medication for a sick a child can be made on the ground by the recipients. This has made a world of difference to those receiving my cash donations.




On the larger scale, if everyone donates cash, the effect is cumulative and more tangible as such aggregate impact would improve the lives of not only the recipients but would also boost the local economy. Therefore, I look at the bigger picture when donating and, as a result, I donate cash. Simply put, cash is the best.

Barlin's photo

Barlin Ali, Program Coordinator for Center for International Disaster Information

More

“What is altruism without effort?”

As a researcher at USAID CIDI, I have spent a great deal of my time conducting research on humanitarian supply chain logistics.  As a result, I now know that the effectiveness of the humanitarian supply chain is critical to the success of disaster relief efforts. We as donors can help logisticians working for professional humanitarian organizations more effectively plan disaster relief operations and better serve survivors by making more effective donations.

When we contribute unsolicited material donations, these can create “logistical bottlenecks” in the humanitarian supply chain that can slow down the provision of aid to those in need.  For this reason, I donate cash to professional humanitarian organizations responding to international disasters because I want to provide them with the opportunity to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.

While it’s not always easy find NGOs that are trustworthy, actively involved in a relief effort, or participating in a way that we as donors want to contribute to, the internet is making it easier for us as donors to do our homework and identify professional humanitarian organizations that we want to support. Websites like GuideStar or Charity Navigator allow us to read reviews from other donors that share their experiences with donating to a particular NGO and offer donors the ability to measure an NGOs legitimacy by evaluating their financial statements, tax returns, and more.  This process does require some time, but what is altruism without effort?

As donors, we rarely consider what happens to our donations after we make them. When I think about what would need to happen for an item to leave my hands and enter the hands of an international disaster survivor, it becomes clear that an incredibly complicated and expensive journey must ensue. How much would it cost to send a pair of jeans from Los Angeles, California to Kabul, Afghanistan?  The answer is roughly $202.05 if you bought the jeans at WalMart and sent them to Afghanistan through FedEx.  Though this isn’t the primary method donors choose to send donations, the process for NGOs that receive unsolicited in-kind contributions is much the same and equally costly.

Monetary contributions, by contrast, provide NGOs with much greater flexibility in the way they can carry out disaster relief operations.  NGOs can exercise bulk purchasing power in countries where the cost of goods in general is considerably less than the cost of the same goods in the United States.  With monetary contributions, NGOs can more easily respond to changing needs on the ground, which is a common occurrence in the wake of severe natural disasters.

I donate cash to international disaster relief efforts for all these reason and simply because monetary donations allow efficient humanitarian supply chains that provide goods and services to disaster-affected people faster.



Eric Chavez (second from left) Senior Research Analyst for The Center for International Disaster Information

Eric Chavez (second from left) Senior Research Analyst for The Center for International Disaster Information

“Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts were unnoticed.”

So if you haven’t heard, #GivingTuesday is all the rage around the holidays! Recognized globally on December 2nd, this day is dedicated to bringing communities, families, organizations, causes and students together for one common goal: to give.

There are so many ways to give back;  whether it’s done anonymously or intentionally, the warm feeling you’re rewarded with is indescribable. The holidays are a time where you are around people you care about the most and every memory is special and imbeds itself into your psyche. That’s what makes it the best time to start traditions; giving a reoccurring role for all to take on and share with their other communities and families.

Whether you choose to give your time, talent, or money, giving back can be done in any fashion. This day fits perfectly between Thanksgiving and Christmas time. So with one day encouraging you to give thanks, another infecting you with cheeriness and acts of generosity, and the one in between actively encouraging you to give, why not donate the best way possible?

Giving money assures that you’ve done your part, and the recipient, who knows the situation best, has comfort in knowing a need is about to be met. I think that is the most important position to view donating from: the position of the recipient. Maybe the need is food and not clothing? How much? What do people need or want to eat? These questions will circulate through the head of the giver who practices #smartcompassion, a giver who channels the desire to give back in the most effective way.

We’re no strangers to donating and giving back. Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts went unnoticed. I think giving money to a friend or family member and not expecting it in return is considered donating. To me, the act of giving itself is what is appreciated by the donor, the recipient, and everyone else.

If you stop and think about it, money travels faster than goods. Cash can meet any need and fill any gap in most circumstances. I think when giving cash, it feels just as good learning that I was responsible for helping build the infrastructure of the organization that feeds children after school as it would feel being responsible for the food they are eating.

With hash tags like #unselfie and #GivingTuesday, this holiday is an excellent way to help push social impact while also giving millennials a chance to be a part of something emerging before our eyes on the platforms we know and love! Great job New York’s 92nd Street Y.



Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

More

“You wouldn’t want to receive something you didn’t ask for or need at Christmas, let alone during a humanitarian crisis.”

It is Christmas eve and presents are lined beneath my family’s tree. Do you remember that present from a distant relative last year that you opened, cringed and never used? For me it was Barbie dolls when I was sixteen. I appreciate the thought that my relatives put into gifts but sometimes I receive ones I know I will never use. It led me to ask for cash.

Now raise the stakes exponentially. I’m not talking about holiday gift giving but donations given during times of crisis.

In Ebola-stricken areas, healthcare workers may give more than a cringe upon receiving in-kind donations of canned food or used clothing when they are not needed or when those needs have been met. You wouldn’t want to receive something you didn’t ask for or need at Christmas, let alone during a humanitarian crisis. Just as I would hate to give a gift I know would be discarded, I would never want to donate goods that would impede a relief effort. Instead, I donate cash.

It’s difficult to anticipate the needs of a relative; it’s even more difficult anticipating the needs of those in a humanitarian crisis. Cash is best.

 

photo

This year’s Christmas tree! (an image from Margot Morris, Program Assistant for The Center for International Disaster Information)