“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


“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.

In the summer of 2005 I worked at a summer camp, earning enough money to purchase my school uniforms and excited by the prospect of riding Metro without an adult. When not working I was glued to the television, watching events unfold after Hurricane Katrina and related flooding in New Orleans . Thousands of moms, dads, children, and elderly people were in desperate need of relief. So many thoughts raced through my mind. What could they have done to prepare for this? What would I do in their situation? What can I do to help them? As days passed, I saw more and more initiatives to support the survivors of New Orleans, yet none of them inspired me to act.

Soon, I started high school; classes and extracurricular activities occupied by mind and time until one announcement thrust Hurricane Katrina back into my consciousness. All after-school activities in the gymnasium had been cancelled or moved to a nearby recreation center so the gym could shelter survivors of Hurricane Katrina who relocated to DC.. There were no ready answers to our many questions: how were they chosen, did they volunteer to come to DC, when would they arrive, how long would they stay, and will they have beds and supplies? This sparked a conversation with a girl in my homeroom who moved to DC following flood warnings in New Orleans. Her stories about how drastically her life changed left me sympathetic and scrambling to grasp that we are all at risk of life-changing events. How can we prepare for the unpredictable?

Preparing for emergencies within our families and communities is important and potentially life-saving. So is preparing oneself as a donor, being ready to give aid to people impacted by disasters. 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. We all want to help affected families in difficult circumstances, and it is important to remember that material donations not specifically requested by relief organizations can actually slow the process of delivering essential supplies, as they take away precious space, personnel, time and other resources from life-saving activities. For those who want to send material things, it’s important to “connect before you collect” and identify a relief or charitable organization beforehand that needs and can distribute the collection. Charitable preparedness!

Being prepared is a skill and it can be a challenge. In light of National Preparedness Month, I am reminded of that summer before high school. There was little difference between what my classmate shared and what the news recounted after Hurricane Katrina; it was the same story from two different perspectives. Both of them inspired me to think hard about priorities in preparedness. As a donor, I may be tempted to donate clothes and other things I no longer have need for, but realized that the best way for me to thoughtfully express compassion starts with being absolutely positive that what I give is needed and requested.

That’s why Cash is Best! Cash donations to relief and charitable organizations working in disaster-affected communities can be used immediately to purchase supplies that are urgently needed, while supporting the local economy. Sending coats that don’t fit any more or out-of-season shoes to disaster sites can disrupt relief operations by taking up space needed to manage and distribute life-saving supplies. Therefore, it’s important for donors to understand that in-kind donations can be useful in the right circumstances but very harmful in others. For more information on donations and why cash is best, please visit:


Back when I was working on the Navajo reservation a church group invited me to join them in putting together care packages for Thailand. Having worked in Thailand I was very skeptical of what they were sending over: baby bottles, formula, diapers and diaper pins. I’d never seen a rural Thai using any of those items and could imagine the Thais pulling them out of the box and wondering over them. I had assumed that they would simply be a useless donation. It was only later that I found out the well-intentioned donation was not only useless but also potentially harmful.


If a mother uses formula and thus reduces or stops breastfeeding, it creates a problem when the donated formula runs out. The mother will have problems adequately breastfeeding her child because she has decreased or even ended her own milk production. Thus a simple good will donation can actually lead to a dependency on the item that is donated.


Think of how much it costs to feed a child formula in your own country. Prices in developing countries are not all that much cheaper. Purchasing formula can quickly become a financial hardship or impossibility. If a family cannot afford to purchase enough formula they may either water down the formula to make it stretch further and thus deprive their child of adequate nutrition, or they might try a substitute like powdered milk or sweetened and diluted cows milk.

Illness and Death

Depending on the location, mothers may have to walk miles to collect water or firewood. This makes it almost impossible to properly sterilize bottles or ensure that there is enough clean water to mix with the formula. The issue becomes even worse in emergency situations. According to an article from the Humanitarian Practice Network:

“Even in the best, most hygienic conditions, artificially-fed babies are five times more likely to suffer diarrhoeal diseases. In unsanitary, crowded conditions, a lack of safe water and a lack of
facilities to sterilise feeding bottles and prepare formula safely and correctly means that artificially fed infants are more than 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoea and other infectious diseases than
infants who are exclusively breastfed.”

Donating formula appears on the surface to be a great way to help out, but there are many unintended consequences.

*** Update

Caution should be used with breast milk donations as well, if not properly handled it can also cause problems, and keeping it cold throughout the entire delivery can be a logistical struggle. For more see this article and this article

Although formula feeding should not be an automatic solution, there are instances when formula is appropriate. Before starting or donating to any formula donation program please read the article Infant feeding in emergencies: Experiences from Lebanon to understand the precautions that should be taken.


UNICEF, WHO and WFP call for support for appropriate infant and young child feeding in the current emergency, and caution about unnecessary and potentially harmful donations and use of breast-milk substitutes

For more information on this I recommend reading Don’t Send Baby Formula to Darfur by the Global Health blog. Not only is the article informative, it also includes some good links to other sources of information.


“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.



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


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 as:

  • A confusion of actors making it impossible to know for sure who has received what already
  • Unequal distribution of aid, with some areas getting much more assistance while other areas may get far less
  • Creating aid dependency by distributing aid in such a way that people come to depend on it
  • An influx of inappropriate aid clogging the ports


A confusion of people and organizations
If a disaster were to happen in your own town you may get help from:

  • Your neighbors, friends, and family
  • Community based organizations – like your local food pantry
  • Local churches – which often serve as immediate shelters after the disaster and help feed and clothe disaster victims
  • City and county first responders – such as the police and fire departments
  • Local clubs and civil service organizations such as Rotary or Lions Club
  • County and state government offices – such as the National Guard
  • State wide aid non-profits – such as the Red Cross
  • National and International businesses – such as Coca Cola after the tsunami
  • National government offices – such as FEMA or units of the Army or Navy
  • National and international aid organizations – such as CARE or OXFAM
  • Depending on the disaster, the offices of United Nations might respond such as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) or UNICEF

Just listing the different organizations can make your head spin, let alone trying to track and coordinate their work. Unfortunately, because of the sheer numbers and types organizations, coordination and information sharing generally only happens within smaller groups. The local government talks to other government offices, the local aid organizations generally share information with each other and some government offices, and the international aid organizations may share information with each other, the UN, and some government offices. Although there are attempts to improve this with the Humanitarian Reform Process, currently a coordinated response between all the actors is far more a goal than a reality.

Add to this confusion people outside any of the coordination structures showing up for a week or two to distribute aid, and the chances of duplicating each others work becomes even more likely.

Unequal distribution of aid

Because there is generally no shared needs assessment or a fully coordinated response plan, the location of your village or your temporary shelter can affect how much aid you receive. Areas that are closer to a main road, are easily accessible, or that receive a lot of media attention, generally get more aid. Locations that are difficult to access, such islands or in areas with poor road access tend to get less aid.  People that chose to live with family members rather than in camps may miss out on a variety of help. This unequal distribution of assistance cause widespread rumors In Thailand that people were moving to temporary camps closer to the main road so they could get more handouts.

With no overall needs assessment readily available, and without the time or the money to do a comprehensive needs assessment, people delivering goods themselves must rely on what they can see or where their translator or guide directs them. This means they are far more likely to go to the areas that are easily accessible and better known. Therefore, instead of giving aid to those that need it the most, they may accidentally compound the problem of unequal distribution of aid. Additionally, because they are acting alone, there is a very good chance that other aid organizations are unaware of the aid given. This creates an even greater probability of duplicated assistance.

Creating aid dependency

After the tsunami, many people came with goods donated from home (see related post on problems with inappropriate donations) or with cash. Often people would hand out 1,000 baht bills (about 35 USD) to each person or family in a camp. Because the average day laborer makes about 5,000 – 6,000 baht a month, this windfall was too much to be missed.

People handing out help could show up at any time of the day, depending on their travel schedule, villagers that went to work risked missing out on whatever was donated. This lead to people staying in the camps to receive handouts rather than seeking day labor jobs. A local orchard owner complained to me that he could no longer hire any help because no one wanted to work anymore. A local monk complained about all the handouts creating aid dependency.

Inappropriate aid clogging ports

All people and goods arriving in a country must enter through sea or air ports. The huge influx of people and goods entering a country after a disaster may far exceed the capacity of the local government to process in a timely manner. Unless the country has the appropriate laws and regulations already in place as well as the authority to prioritize which people and goods are allowed in the country first, well-intended donations of clothing may take up the customs area preventing shipments of medicine from clearing customs.


Consider staying home and donating

Unless you are immediately adjacent to the disaster and can get basic supplies there within the first 72 hours, it is better to stay out of the fray and donate to the aid agency you think will do the best job. Although traveling to an area to distribute aid is appealing, the common problems inherent in disaster relief mean that your well-intended assistance may exacerbate an already difficult and confusing situation


Here are the winners from the stories submitted for the worst in-kind donation contest (related post: What is an in-kind donation). You may have your own personal favorites, all submissions can be read here, please feel free to add more. Thanks to everyone that submitted their stories!

The most common in-kind donation
Shoes of all sorts; soccer shoes, running shoes, flip flops, etc… (see post for why this might not be a good donation)

The most ridiculous in-kind donation
Knickers for Africa and bras for Haiti – recent requests were made for donations of both of these items recently by two different organizations

The grossest in-kind donation
Used soap from hotels are collected and sent to Uganda

Worst in-kind donation as a tax write-off
Skeleton shaped suckers leftover from Halloween sent to survivors of Hurricane Mitch

Worst in-kind donation as a political stunt
Spam (spiced ham) hand delivered by a US Senator to Muslims after the tsunami (this donation was also a contestant for the next category)

Most offensive in-kind donation
The offer of what was perceived as dog food to Kenya to help with their food crisis –

In-kind donation that wasted the most recipient time
This was a toss-up between a broken computer that the recipient organization spent years trying to fix or the 15 pallets of random medicine sent after Hurricane Mitch. Critical time was wasted sorting through the medicine and throwing 3/4 of it away.

Most dangerous in-kind donation
Baby formula donated after Hurricane Mitch – if mixed with contaminated water could kill a baby from diarrhea within 24 hours.

Related posts:

What is an in-kind donation?
6 questions you should ask before donating goods overseas
Sending sports equipment to needy children seems like a good idea, but is it…
The most useful in-kind donations
Donating shoes and other aid fads
Why do we so often give aid in ways that does not support the local economy?

After having posted a contest to find the worst examples of in-kind donations, it was suggested that there are some in-kind donations that can be useful. Thus, in this post I am asking for examples of the most useful in-kind donations.

I invite you to submit examples of useful in-kind donations, research demonstrating the best types of in-kind donations, or criteria for useful donations.

I’ll start by submitting two sets of guidelines from the World Health Organization; Guidelines for Health Care Equipment Donations, and Guidelines for Drug Donations. The four criteria given in the first set of guidelines are specific to health care equipment, however donors would benefit from considering these criteria for all donations.

We’ve all heard of, or even volunteered for, popular non-profit organizations like United Way, Salvation Army, Goodwill, American National Red Cross, and YMCA to name a few. Non-profit organizations rally around a common principle, using profits to invest back in projects that address the organization’s interests. The ones we are most familiar with have a charity or a public service component. They welcome and enable people to contribute their time, skills, efforts, and money for a greater good. Organizations that do this play an integral role in the general welfare and economic and social interests of our communities – solving problems and enriching the community. Non-profits can work domestically or internationally on a range of issues, from addressing immediate hardships for people to preserving macro and micro aspects of cultures.

Do you have an interest in working for the greater good? Human rights, gender equity, environmentally sound development, assisting refugees – I bet there is an organization that exists to address what you care about! Are you interested in giving to or volunteering for a non-profit but you’re not sure what charities are nearby and who needs help? As part of my focus on the Back-to-School season, I’ve compiled a list of non-profit organizations, both domestic and international, that address some of the issues related to going back to school like access to food, books, and a well-rounded education. Thanks to websites like Global Giving and InterAction, we have the resources to explore and support trusted organizations that serve nearly every country and every cause in the world.

Here are some organizations and projects that I have learned about that might interest you:

Help 95 DC Kids Extend Learning After School: New Community for Children plans to serve students from Kindergarten through 12th grade and support them in reaching their full academic potential, preparing for college, and giving back time and talent to their communities.

Increase Graduation Rates In Little Rock: City Year, of Little Rock, Arkansas, is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for low-income youth. City Year’s Long-Term Impact goal is to ensure 80% of the students in the schools they serve reach the 10th grade.

The Lunch Box Expansion Project: Chef Ann Foundation believes by changing the way children eat and think about food, we are helping to create a future generation of informed consumers and parents whose food choices will support sustainable, healthy food systems.

Goods for the Greater Good: Good 360 transforms lives and strengthens communities by mobilizing companies to donate needed materials. The non-profit leader in product philanthropy distributes goods to a network of more than 32,000 prequalified charities, schools and libraries on behalf of America’s top brands.

Pact:Pact’s vision is a world where those who are poor and marginalized exercise their voice, build their own solutions, and take ownership of their future. Pact accomplishes this by strengthening local capacity, forging effective governance systems, and transforming markets into a force for development.

Donating money to a non-profit enables it to utilize the funds in a manner that best serves its goal. Donating your time and skills to an organization locally means you understand the importance of the cause and think it is valuable enough to your community for you to contribute. However you choose to start the year, I encourage you to donate your time, effort, skills, or money to an organization you believe supports the future you want to see.

Class is dismissed! You’ve successfully completed the final course in giving back for back-to-school. What did you learn? What do you plan to share? I want to make the final lesson more active than the previous two and hope that my reflections on the fundamentals in starting the school year encouraged you to reminisce as well. I have a couple of questions for you!

How important can a great foundation be for a student to succeed?

How do you define foundation?

What’s your favorite organization? Is it one of the non-profits we mentioned above?

Share with us below, on your Facebook, or on Twitter! We’d love to hear from you.





In a recent Huffington Post article, Drew Barrymore urged readers to give to the World Food Program to help end world hunger. I understand Drew’s concern and desire to help, it is what drives so much of international aid. However, food aid alone will not end world hunger, and food aid should be done carefully so that it does not harm the local economy – see my related post.

The best way to solve world hunger is to address the root cause of the food crisis

There are many factors that can cause a food crisis. Addressing these problems will provide longer term solutions to world hunger.

Is the food crisis caused by unemployment?

A food crisis can be caused by high unemployment. There could be food at the marketplace, but people are going hungry because they cannot afford to buy it. Imagine if the US’s economic situation were to worsen and unemployment increased dramatically. Would the best solution to a potential food crisis be for an aid agency ship food in? US farmers, cattlemen, and grocery stores would strongly disagree.

A better solution might be to develop a voucher system – food stamps – that would allow villagers to buy food locally. This puts money into the economy and keeps the farmers, grocers, and cattlemen from loosing their livelihoods.

Is the food crisis caused by the inability to get food to the marketplace?

When roads are damaged by conflict, natural disaster, or lack of maintenance, it can be too difficult or even impossible to get the food to market. Imagine if a disaster were to hit New York City and the bridges and ports
connecting it to the mainland were destroyed. Would the best solution be for an aid agency to ship in food from Canada?


A better solution might be assisting the government or the local people to repair the roads, bridges, and ports needed to transport food.

Is the food crisis caused by high transportation costs?

A food crisis could be caused if the price of gasoline eats away any profit the farmers might have made by shipping food to market. In Thailand filling up a compact car costs 1/5 of a laborers monthly wages.  Imagine if gas prices in the US rose to $12/gallon, how would that affect food transportation. If the price of gasoline in the US rose so high that it was cost prohibitive for farmers to ship food into our urban centers would the best solution be for an aid
agency to pay to ship food in from Mexico?

Better solutions might be subsidizing gas, helping farmers purchase vehicles that run on natural gas, or building more train lines.

Is the food crisis a political problem?

Suppose that the dollar fell so low against the Euro that US agribusinesses shipped most of their food to Europe because they could make more money there than selling it domestically. Would the best solution to the ensuing food crisis be for an aid agency to buy food internationally and ship it to the US?

Many food problems are caused because local farmers are forced off of their land and into city slums by agribusiness or other forms of development. If these root problems are not addressed there will be a continued food crisis.

Factors causing world hunger vary, a single solution is not the answer

Factors that cause world hunger are varied, and rarely are related to a lack of available food. Giving food aid does not address the underlying cause of hunger and is not sustainable over time.

Before donating to an aid agency that provides food aid, request answers to some critical questions:

  1. What is the root cause of the food crisis?
  2. Is there food available within that country or in neighboring countries?
  3. Where is the majority of the food purchased?
  4. What impact will food aid have on the local economy?
  5. What efforts are being made in conjunction with the feeding program to address the underlying causes?

Once you have answers to those questions put yourself in the villagers shoes. If this were to happen in the US, is that the solution you would want?

Feeling sad that summer is coming to an end? That’s normal! Instead, think about all the memories you and friends will make and share during this school year. Or what about all the new faces you’ll soon learn to love? It’s not all that bad. Actually, it’s pretty great!

My name is Lauren Chatman, and I am the new Social Media Specialist for the Center for International Disaster Information at USAID. Although I am no longer physically in a classroom I am in a new, active learning environment every day. I live by the saying, “I have always loved school, and therefore, I will forever be a student.” Isn’t it amazing the effect that time has on your perception of things? Last year at this time, I was gearing up for the final semester of my undergrad career and now I am reflecting on the many contributions to my success in school, and hopefully, in life. Please join me in Part One of a three part blog series highlighting the “back-to-school” season

The  first day of school can forecast the rest of the year, depending on how you look at it. Put another way, your perspective of your first day in class can create your attitude about the upcoming year in a positive or negative way. What will you decide?

There are a number of things I found during my time at school that lead to a successful school year:

Getting enough rest: Getting 8 to 9 hours of rest helps you stay alert so you don’t miss anything vital on the big day . Being well rested can result in you boosting your brainpower and making better daily decisions.

Eating a healthy breakfast: Breakfast is also a way to recharge the brain and body causing you to be more efficient throughout the day. Eating a well-balanced breakfast in the morning ensures you’ll be able to not only concentrate but also perform better in the classroom . So not only are you well rested you’re pretty full too.

Preparing your clothes the night before: Whether you’re returning to class in uniform or in style, nothing helps to smooth the morning panic of getting ready like being prepared. This forces you to not only identify but eliminate any issues up and coming.

New school supplies: Having color-coordinated or thematic supplies or a fresh pack of pens and paper is exciting and functional! Having brand new materials can spark your enthusiasm and creativity and encourages organization . Not only does having your supplies help in confidence, but, colors also help establish familiarity, recognition, and symbolism.

Bright eyes and bushy tails:  School comes just in time to rescue us from the last days of summer, refreshed and renewed from the sun and the time off. You’re full of energy and eager for new adventures after a fun-filled, busy summer. Channel that energy!

With memories of undergrad studies fresh in my mind and back-to-school season approaching, I can’t help but to have some mixed emotions. As I look back on all the things I considered vital to a successful school year, not one was more important than another. They all can mold us into the successful students we want to be .

And not surprisingly, I’m finding that they work in the post-graduate world as well! Getting enough rest, well balanced breakfast, having the right materials, and so on are all essential to success in the wider world as well. Can you imagine how hard it might be to reach your full potential without doing one or two of the things listed? If not, lucky you, but I bet most people would agree. Stay tuned for blog post #2 where we discuss the importance of helping others where help is needed.

It was a pleasure meeting you– see you soon and best of luck to you in the new school year!






Upon posting the article 5 questions to ask before donating goods overseas it was suggested to me that we should hold a contest to find the worst examples out there. So here it is….

Reply to this post with the worst examples you know of, we’ll post the winners next week. I’m looking forward to seeing what we get!

Related posts:
What is an in-kind donation?
The worst in-kind donations

In the past month I have seen three different aid agencies request donated goods to send overseas. This is always an appealing idea because it makes you feel like you’re really helping while at the same time recycling things that are no longer of any use to you. Unfortunately, it often costs more to ship goods than to buy them locally, and inappropriate donations can do more harm than good. The following are five questions you should always ask before donating.

  1. Is the donation appropriate for the local climate, culture, and religion?
  2. Do they actually need the donation?
  3. Are the goods available locally?
  4. Will the people receiving the goods be able to afford to fix or replace the donated item?
  5. Will donating this item do more harm than good?

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 recovery of the people you are trying to assist. By importing items and then giving them away for free, instead of purchasing them locally, you out compete the local shop keepers trying to sell similar goods. They, in turn, do not purchase more these items from local manufactures and farmers. If enough goods are given away for free it can bankrupt the local businesses that are struggling to survive.

Would we allow goods that would compete with items made in the US to be shipped in and given away for free?

Let’s look at this from a different angle. Suppose instead of soccer equipment being shipped by the US to Afghanistan, China, concerned about a prolonged economic downturn in the US, decides to donate fuel efficient cars to California to help the world’s 6th largest economy recover. Would the US allow China to import donated cars? Think of the effect this would have not only on the car dealers in California but also to the car manufactures and parts manufacturers throughout the US. To protect our own markets the US has import restrictions and tariffs, other countries have similar regulations.

Importing goods often costs more than buying them in country

Shipping items is also very expensive. Costs that need to be considered include air or sea transport, custom fees or tariffs, and overland transportation once in country. It is often cheaper to buy the goods in country which would put money into the local economy. Shopkeepers who are struggling after years of war would welcome the business, they may then buy more soccer balls from the factory. With increased orders the factory would have more work for their staff, which may lead to increased wages with which workers could feed their families and buy soccer balls for their own children.

Guidelines for in-kind donations

The Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) has some great guidelines for in-kind donations, even if it’s not a disaster. Here’s an excerpt:

“unlike in-kind donations, cash donations entail no transportation cost. In addition, cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased at locations as near to the disaster site as possible. Supplies, particularly food, can almost always be purchased locally- even in famine situations. This approach has the triple advantage of stimulating local economies (providing employment, generating cash flow), ensuring that supplies arrive as quickly as possible and reducing transport and storage costs.”

Buying locally supports the local economy which speeds recovery

Although the intention behind the donation of sporting equipment was good, good intentions alone are not enough to ensure good aid. Buying locally is always preferable to shipping in goods from outside. Donated goods undercut the local economy and if the markets are undercut often enough businesses will fail creating more people in need of aid.