Know Your Philanthropy

DonateThere are several popular forms of philanthropy that circulate around places such as schools and churches. Canned food drives and clothing drives, for example, are typically publicized by said places as ways to give. When natural disaster hits a certain region, clothing drives are generally the first response. However, while taking the time to give is admirable, not to mention it has numerous health benefits, many people donate without doing the proper research. When giving anything to a cause or an organization, philanthropists must make sure they know the precise needs of the group they are giving to.

Think about it: you have to make sure you are giving people what they truly need in order to make a difference. Unfortunately, popular donation ‘drives’ usually do not take this into account. For example, having canned food drives for Food Pantries are not the best allocation of resources. Food pantries have the ability to buy a large amount of edible goods in bulk for a cheaper, wholesale price. Therefore, the money that is spent buying cans for a food drive, if simply given to a food pantry, could stretch a lot farther.

Knowing what to give at what time is doubly difficult when facing the aftermath of a natural disaster. Usually, when a devastated region is attempting to recover, its needs change on a weekly, or even daily, basis. There have been instances in the past of too many clothes being donated after a natural disaster, such as in 2004, after India was hit by a tsunami. The more clothing sent in, the more useless clothing donations became. It got to a point where there were piles of clothing lying at the sides of roads. Resources had to be used to clean up the clothing as well as the effects of the natural disaster, which stunted overall recovery efforts.

This may make it seem as if giving money is the only way to truly make a difference, especially in the wake of a disaster, but even this form of philanthropy has its own caveats. When donating any sum of money to an organization, you must delve into the organization to ensure it will make the most use out of your money. Of course, searching for fraudulent activity in a charity is a no-brainer. However, you must also discern if the charity’s program is effective, and has made a difference in the past.

This news comes as something of a surprise to all philanthropists, myself included. Things like food drives and clothing drives bring communities together in support of a specific cause, and I worry that stopping such programs will make people feel less fulfilled when giving. Therefore, we must find a way to maximize the effectiveness of the money of philanthropists, while at the same time providing them with the community that comes with drives.

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