For most of my life, I have donated to charities.
I am going to be honest here - I liked that I knew I was spending my hard earned money on something that would benefit another. I liked knowing that I had contributed to improving the world in some way and this made me feel like a good person. What I didn’t know was that I could have done it so much better.
Only recently have I considered the smart approach to giving. Two points I would love to share with you now are these:
· Charities are not equally effective and
· Your money can be better spent in poorer countries
How do you know which charities do the most good? Did you know that if you donate $50 to a charity, one charity may use that to benefit one person, whereas another charity can use that to help 200 people? Looking at it through that lens, it seems so important that we carefully consider where to donate our contributions to make sure that we are helping the maximum number of people that we can. When it comes to giving, the more effective way to contribute your money is to donate to effective charities.
The difficulty lies in knowing which ones are most effective. How can you tell? We do not have access to that information, and many charities don’t measure their impact. Knowing that they are helping people keeps them working hard. Lord Kelvin put it best when he said ‘what is not defined, cannot be measured. What is not measured, cannot be improved. What is not improved, is always degraded’. If we don’t measure our work, how can we know if we are having the greatest impact? And as people who are wanting to contribute to the health and wellbeing of others- shouldn’t this be important to us?
Luckily, we don’t have to do the hard yards- of contacting all the different charities, getting their data and assessing it objectively. This has been done for us, and presented in a way that we can access it and see the impact we are having on others. There is a website called www.thelifeyoucansave.com which allows you to hypothetically put in your donation amount and see how each of the most effective charities would use it.
For example: donating $AU50 when given to different charities could:
· If donated to ‘Evidence Action’ deworm 80 children or provide clean drinking water to 31 people for one year.
· If donated to the 'Fred Hollows Foundation’ provide 166 antibiotic distributions to prevent blinding trachoma
· If donated to ‘GAIN Salt Iodisation Program’ you can provide 148 people with a lifetime of iodised salt (which protects against iodine deficiency disorders and brain damage).
Compare that with donating to a more generic charity, in which your donation could help one child for a couple of days.
What I have learnt from this is that instead of doing the convenient donation (whoever happens to have a table outside the grocery store), I am actively choosing to donate money to people who will use it well.
Many of us have travelled overseas and noticed that things cost different amounts in different countries. When I went to China, at one of the restaurants I went to, my entire (large) meal was 80 cents. That same meal in Australia would have cost far more than that.
The same principle applies to giving. When we give to charities that function in developed countries, the overheads are higher, and the effectiveness of the donation is dimished by the high cost of the expenses. To give someone meals in a developed country costs exceedingly higher than someone in a country with high levels of poverty. When we donate to charities that are in poorer countries, we can help far more people than we do by giving locally.
When you are donating, if you want to be sure you are helping as many people as you possible can, I strongly encourage you to check out the website link above. If you are someone do does like to measure for improvement, you can keep your own personal record of what a difference you are making (and choosing causes close to your heart).
At the moment I am focussing on clean drinking water as it astounds me that not all people have access to this yet.
It is my hope in writing this that you might consider who you are donating to and how you can make even more of a difference. You can save a life. Or many lives. And now you know how.
Tracy Churchill is a Nurse Manager and LinkedIn Top Voice 2020. She shares her insight and expertise as a nursing leader during a time of tremendous upheaval for frontline health care workers. Her articles cover topics such as the loneliness facing COVID-19 patients as they isolate from their loved ones; the small acts of kindness that nurses provide to their patients; and how hospitals are managing nurse burnout, such as with four-day workweeks. She also writes about leadership and management from a nursing perspective.