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“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.

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“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.

 

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

 

Smart Compassion has recently been an important issue at the “Ocean State” of Rhode Island.  At the University of Rhode Island’s College of Business Administration, students of the introductory Operations and Supply Chain Management course – BUS 355, taught by Professor Koray Özpolat, have been offered an optional semester-long project called “Humanitarian Logistics Project”

Building on their logistics and supply chain training, teams of three to four students design public service announcements (PSA) to inform the American public about the most effective way to donate in response to the international disasters. These PSAs are then submitted to the national PSAid contest run by USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI).

The outcome has been fantastic. In 2012 and 2013, four URI teams were nationally recognized in this contest which created lots of buzz in the university and state media (below, see a PSA that was awarded the 2nd place in 2012). Not only the winning teams but many other students doing this project received satisfaction. A student evaluated the project as follows:

URI info

Educators willing to adopt a similar project may take a look at the Özpolat et al. (2014)* paper recently published at the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education.

Overall, contests, similar to PSAid, can successfully be integrated into syllabi of college courses as semester-long team-based projects. While only six PSAs are recognized annually, all contestants are actual winners because their entries are ever-green at the contest website serving the humanitarian relief community in educating their donors.

* Özpolat K.,Chen Y., Hales, D., Yu D., and Yalcin M. G., 2014. “Using Contests to provide Business Students Project-Based Learning in Humanitarian Logistics: PSAid Example”, Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 12(4), 269-285.

 

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CIDI’s Barlin Ali and OFDA Asa Piyaka speak to Ahmed Scego, one of the founders of Global Somali Diaspora

People like to say that this is the Age of Connectedness. Yes, we are more connected. But we’ve always been connected—now it is on a much more intimate and expansive level. Humanity has always sought connectedness. We’ve been exchanging ideas for thousands of years; initially through conquest and trade, now exchange occurs through expedient international travel and the Internet. Diaspora groups are a manifestation of this continued connectedness as community boundaries have reshaped and expanded in our modern era.

At USAID Center for International Disaster Information, we hosted the first organized event in our history. On November 13th, “Diaspora, Disaster, and Donations” welcomed a brilliant set of panelists, each engaging diaspora communities in different ways, with robust discussion about diaspora communities’ roles following disaster events. Each panelist touched upon the importance of the connectedness of our world and how diaspora groups are an active expression of this.

USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance’s Asa Piyaka expounded upon the shifting role diaspora communities are playing in disaster relief. Diasporas play such a crucial role during disaster, he explained, because these communities already have ties to the affected region and are typically more tuned-in to what is needed than international relief organizations may be. USAID CIDI’s own Barlin Ali conveyed that diasporas and charities wish to send remittances and donated cash to disaster-affected areas. However, in addition to the power of cash during emergencies, it is crucial to provide education about responsible giving in order to maximize its efficacy and impact.

During a disaster, remittances sent to countries of origin by diaspora communities are often the only stable source of income, stated Safiya Khalid of the Institute of Immigration Research at George Mason. For example, in the 2004 tsunami, Sri Lanka received government and NGO money to provide fishermen with boats; nonetheless, it was remittances that provided the nets with which to fish. Remittances aren’t without associated challenges, including misdirected money. Katherine Gupta of the US Treasury Department outlined avenues in which remittances can be given safely and transparently.

Diaspora groups send remittances and concerned citizens donate to communities stricken by crises because each are affected by the global reverberations during their aftermaths. Professor Terrence Lyons of George Mason University mentioned that “communities are not bounded by territory, they are transnational.” That to be a part of a diaspora community is to be both “simultaneously a Virginian and a Liberian. Those links of affinity, that you have an obligation to this community . . . that is what drives so much of the politics and the donations, and the remittances.”

Our global community is transformed by the immediate communicative and physical connection we all now have. When disaster strikes, it is no longer an isolated incidence as it may have been a hundred years ago; rather, it now impacts the world on a global and a regional level. Diaspora groups are a realization of the expansion of distinctive regional communities. These communities, especially diaspora, are poised better than ever to respond to disaster and reshape our global recovery efforts.

USAID CIDI Staff at "Diaspora, Disaster, and Donations"

USAID CIDI Staff at “Diaspora, Disaster, and Donations”

event invite

Join us as we host a panel discussion on:

Diaspora: who are they, why do they matter, and how are they impacting the economics of disaster relief in an increasingly globalized world? We want to take the mystery out of this very diverse, dynamic topic and engage with those who are active diaspora working in development.

RSVP here, from now until seats are gone, so hurry!

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.

 

 

 

 

Going back to school always gave me mixed emotions. Not every year, but at every stage of my education, I felt like expectations of me were bumped up a notch or two. Like going to elementary school after being in daycare, I remember feeling that routine was everything and as long as I remembered how each day was ordered I would be fine. Moving on to middle school after elementary, my new routine included remembering my locker combination and the order and location of seven subject periods. In high school I balanced finding time for my social life while remaining steadfast in my studies. As for college, routine went out the window and time management took over as a preeminent skill to have. Actually, practicing time management in college enhanced lots of other skills for me, including critical thinking, weighing options, and strategizing. Ultimately I realized that while every school year would require an increasing level of life-skills, each year would also involve a lot of repetition.

I am thankful for the things I knew would ensure my success in school. Taking care of updating my immunization records, keeping a supply of crisp uniforms, and enjoying a hot breakfast each morning gave my parents confidence that I would succeed. New school supplies, new shoes, and a fresh learning environment gave me higher heights to reach. A new grade level, more friends, and increasing responsibilities made me feel like I was in a perfect position to excel. Looking back from elementary to undergrad I’m reminded of that old saying that “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. I understand now that repetition of familiar routines helped to ease my nervousness in each new environment, and each new success builds on prior successes.  Fortunately for me, I had familiar and new things to look forward to every year. But many of us don’t.

I can imagine the disappointment felt by a student who starts a new school year feeling unprepared and without many successes to build on. There may be concern for the health of a child who doesn’t have updated immunizations and records. There may be feelings of embarrassment for students who return to class with uniforms that have more wears than those of classmates. And I’m pretty sure it’s hard to focus on the lesson at hand when your tummy is rumbling. New school supplies and new shoes are so exciting to return to school with and many of us don’t fully appreciate how blessed we are to be able to have those things. Determined is the child who manages to complete each grade level, make new friends, and handle new responsibilities despite these obstacles.  Try to imagine the difficulty of not having these resources year after year. Repetition of their absence becomes disturbing over time. The repeated cycle of a lack of preparedness at each stage of your educational career can easily become disturbing. Disturbing and discouraging.

For me, the repetition has changed. This year isn’t about new uniforms or new grade levels, or even a hot breakfast when I’m battling the clock. This year is about new responsibilities, new dreams, new lessons, and maybe most important, new ways of compassion toward others. I’m learning that there are many nonprofit organizations that understand a child’s foundation of success in education goes a long way. They understand that without the proper tools for success children will have more distractions than just their classmates. The distractions hold them back from learning, which sometimes causes a lack of desire to learn.

Helping others and giving back is a substantial way to contribute to your own success, in education and otherwise. Instead of purchasing uniforms for myself, I could donate to an organization that provides uniforms for students who can’t afford them. I could donate to a back-to-school drive that provides students with the right course materials. Or even donating to a favorite health organization that gives free immunization shots could help.

Repeating something good over and over again can make it a habit. How amazing would it be to make a habit of donating to your favorite organization when the back to school season arrives? Cool right? Need help finding some?

Stay tuned for third period where we discuss nonprofit organizations who agree with the fundamentals of back to school.

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I love watching Alyssa Thomas play basketball. Not only because the University of Maryland three-time ACC Player of the Year is an uber-athletic, ridiculously talented, beautiful monster stat machine, but because she is also a giver. Watch her sometime; her focus is always on her teammates, the ball, the basket, and scoring. She applies her imagination and skill over every obstacle in a relentless pursuit of the win. And from her completeness and purity of effort ripples wave after wave of inspiration, to her teammates, the fans, the announcers, and those who witness.

Alyssa Thomas

Alyssa Thomas holding a ball with her teammates. Photo credit to Maryland Athletics.

All players give effort but not all give wisely. The ball-hogs, the floppers, the hackers— perhaps owing to impatience or inexperience— push winning a little farther away through sub-optimal use of their talent and time.  But Alyssa always seems to give her best; even under formidable demands, pressure and opposition, she gives wisely.

In the humanitarian arena, givers like Alyssa are needed and admired. Analogous to epic ball skills, charitable donors demonstrate focused, intelligent giving when “winning” involves helping people who are going through very tough times. On USAID CIDI’s home court of disaster relief, we cheer on donors who give essential aid through monetary contributions to relief and charitable organizations working directly with disaster-affected people. Cash donations play to the strengths of these organizations by optimizing their expertise and bulk purchasing power, which enable them to help more people quickly and for a longer time. Monetary donations are the alley-oop of charity.

As the college basketball season ends, Atlantic Hurricane Season approaches, and there may be occasions this year when others need an assist.  During the hard challenges, disaster-affected people are most effectively supported when donors team up with charitable organizations and follow-through with perfect form—just like Alyssa.

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We bet you’re all dressed up, gifts are wrapped, and cookies are baked.

Uhh Ohh…

 

Christmas 2013 blogDid you forget something? Perhaps a gift for a relative? For a White Elephant Party? For a colleague?

USAID CIDI staff is here to help you overcome that sinking feeling with easy, thoughtful, last minute gifts!

Delfin 

Who doesn’t love the Bahamas? Delfin, our Chief of Media Relations and Strategy, has been dreaming of scuba diving in pristine Caribbean waters all year long. Make sure the Caribbean and its wildlife are here for you to visit time and again by adopting the coral reef. For $50 through The Nature Conservancy, you can protect the ecosystem and the sea turtles that inhabit it. Who doesn’t love turtles?

https://support.nature.org/site/Ecommerce/1438131896?VIEW_PRODUCT=true&product_id=1361&store_id=2741

Eric

Long-term recovery and return to normalcy are crucial for survivors. One of the best ways to support this is through a microfinance loan. Eric, our Senior Research Analyst, calls this the Gift of Self Reliance. For $10, you can support Filipino entrepreneurs start a business. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/raise-capital-for-entrepreneurs-in-philippines/

Juanita

Juanita, our Director, is a former English major and bibliophile. Currently, she is engulfed in “Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid”. For Juanita, it harkens back to her time in disaster relief work. For your last minute gift recipient, it tells gritty, gripping tales about the highs, lows and in-betweens of humanitarian work that will inform the soul of the adventure-lover and the dreamer alike. $12.45.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0770436919?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0770436919&linkCode=xm2&tag=thewaspos09-20

Paris

Paris, our Information Management Specialist, wants to support causes that are close to her loved ones’ hearts. Her gift of choice is a GlobalGiving Gift card. It allows the recipient to chose a $10 program or cause that they truly support, all in the name of the holiday spirit.

http://www.globalgiving.org/gifts/

Chris

Chris, our Social Media Specialist, wants a gift that reaches everyone. Even before disasters, those with physical or mental disabilities may already be at a disadvantage. After a disaster, infrastructure and resources are severely limited. Chris, our Social Media Specialist, wants a gift that reaches everyone. That is why his go-to gift is $15 to purchase spare parts for all terrain wheelchairs in Haiti.

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/haiti-wheelchair-project/

Barlin

Barlin, our Program Coordinator, loves camels-from pictures in her office to camel milk in her tea. She often talks about how vital camels are for nutrition, transportation, and status in Somalia.

Barlin’s perfect gift, last minute or otherwise, is a share of a camel, $85, through Heifer International. Heifer International provides livestock to families in need.

http://www.heifer.org/gift-catalog/animals-nutrition/gift-of-a-camel-donation.html

So readjust your tie, munch on a cookie, and go to that holiday party confidently! You’ve crossed off everyone on your gift list while practicing Smart Compassion.

 Happy Holidays from our team to yours!