Is there a disconnect between donor giving and NGO needs?

AS a donor, do you have a preconceived notion of what your giving experience should look like?

In today’s culture of instant gratification, many want instant recognition of their gift. While it is heart-warming to see the appreciation of the person you are helping and watch them immediately benefit from warm socks or food, does this type of giving make the gift more about you than them?

‘Me-first’ giving

An example of this type of charity here in India is the trend of hosting children’s birthday parties at orphanages. The attendees feel happy because they are ‘doing good’ by providing orphans with ‘an experience’. However, in return for a meal, some cake, and maybe a token return gift, the kids must smile, sing, and celebrate a stranger’s birthday.

In the end, does this type of giving really help the NGO or children? Does anyone stop to think how the orphans feel watching a privileged child celebrate their birthday surrounded by friends and family? Do they ask the organisation whether this event actually sustains its programmes or stop to consider that it might even cost the NGO time and salaries for little return?

Others believe that when they part with their rupee they can dictate exactly how an individual or organisation benefits. An example of this would be a well-meaning, but misguided, Wish Tree supporter’s shock at a request for two movie tickets for girls at a shelter home. She thought it ‘frivolous’ and believed they should only receive something more sensible, like a school bag or stationery.

What we should be asking is why someone thinks it ‘outrageous’ for a needy child to wish for a day at the movies when many of us don’t think twice about buying tickets to see the latest release. Moreover, why do we think we know what a disadvantaged person ‘needs’ more than they do?

Many donors who can’t afford to part with their hard-earned money prefer to volunteer their time and expertise instead. Giving your time can be very valuable. However, it’s important to consider whether your work is a value-add, or if it’s just a way to make you feel good or boost your likes on social media.

These perspectives are not trying to say that you shouldn’t have expectations or that it’s bad to enjoy that warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping someone. But, they should make you think about how you can avoid indulging in a ‘me-first’ attitude towards altruism and harness the desire for instant gratification for good.

Compassionate charity

How can you be a responsible and thoughtful donor while still enjoying the experience?

Effective altruism is a social movement that encourages people to determine the most effective way to help others by considering all evidence and carefully analysing which cause will make the most impact before donating.

Obviously, this is a great idea for major benefactors deciding which interventions to support, but how does this apply to you as an individual donor?

If your goal is to touch as many lives as possible with your donation or volunteering, then simply researching an organisation is just logical. GuideStar India can help you verify that an NGO is what they say and evaluate their impact by giving you access to their annual reports and financial statements.

Small Change can introduce you to vetted NGOs, provide a platform to understand their greatest needs, and give you details of how funds raised are spent, thus ensuring that your gift makes the maximum impact.

Once you’ve done due diligence to ensure that an NGO is reputable and effective, then let the experts do their thing. Don’t make them jump through hoops to receive your assistance. Trust them when they tell you what they need, be it cash, volunteer hours, or tangible items.

While you may not enjoy handing over money as much as an old winter coat, the organisation may have an immediate need to cover operational costs so they can continue providing services for all, rather than servicing just one client’s needs.

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