- by Stacey Prince
Many people make charitable donations from time to time. If you are like me, there may not be much rhyme or reason to your decision-making about who to give to. There are a few organizations that I support year after year, without fail although the amount I donate may fluctuate as the economy (globally and mine personally) waxes and wanes. At other times I am compelled to give in response to a particular event or disaster (Haiti earthquake, Gulf oil spill, Indian Ocean tsunami) or a request from a friend (someone walking in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, for example). But I don’t have a very good system (or any?) for choosing organizations based on particular dimensions (local, national or global? progressive or mainstream?) or topics (though I tend toward civil rights / social justice oriented, healthcare, and environmental organizations). I’m also not great about researching how effectively my money is spent when given to a particular organization. There is a pretty good website for this, by the way, called www.charitynavigator.org.
Charitable giving is also influenced by class and economic issues. Most giving comes from individuals, not organizations, and those individuals are from all class backgrounds. As a member of the middle class I recognize it is a privilege to have funds to spare for charitable causes. One’s current economic and employment situation, and access to other vital resources such as healthcare and childcare, will influence choices about giving as well.
Also, I struggle to discern when charitable giving is actually helpful: when is it condescending or rescuing versus empowering? When is it more about the giver (wanting recognition, wanting to be seen as generous and benevolent, etc.) than the receiver? How can funds be used effectively to help people utilize and mobilize the resources they already have access to, rather than bringing in (and then removing or ending) outside funds?
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