Giving is Better Than Blogging... or IS it?

By Troy Hadley on 11 April 2007 (Updated 10 June 2007) 5 comments

Giving is better than receiving. I do sincerely believe this, as much as I like receiving. And I do like getting stuff.

You know that old saying about giving a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day... but teach him how to fish, and he'll end up going to cooking school and opening a swanky restaurant downtown that you won't be able to get reservations to, despite the fact that you taught him, in painstaking detail, how to tie flies when he was down and out?

I bring this up because of... livestock. My mom likes to donate to charities that work in Third World countries, and a recent charitable phenomenon is a Goat Gift Pack (or sheep, or cows, pigs, even fowl) for poor families that have no source of income. It's sort of a microfinance concept, that a small loan or donation put towards livelihood, rather than pure survival, is more beneficial to a poor family than, say, a bag of rice. Animals produce milk, which can be consumed and sold for profit. It's something that seems to be very popular right now in the giving world.

I'm a tad skeptical about the price tags, however. For instance, my mom recently paid $300 to a well-known religious organization to give a pair of sheep to a poor family in India. $300? I don't think a pair of sheep cost that much in the U.S., and we should have pricey sheep. I'm wary of just how much money is being skimmed off the top for these organizations. I know that there are lots of administrative costs, but we're talking about a country in which you can get a full, satisfying meal for under a dollar.

I'm not sure how to organize an investigation of whether or not Mom got ripped off, so I'll just caution anyone else who was thinking of paying $300 for livestock to shop around a bit. In my mother's case, she personally corresponds with thsi family, so I think she felt stuck in using her chosen organization to give them help.

By the way, Slate.com ran a good article on the best microfinance organizations to donate to. I found it informative, anyway.

Give without really giving

 Link to Give

Greater Good runs several web sites that raise money to combat hunger, disease, and animal abuse. Greater Good is a for-profit company, but they give a portion of their profits to charity. They also started the click-to-give idea a while ago, before Google got involved, in which revenue provided by ad clicks was donated to dedicated charities. The premise is that you can visit any of the Greater Good sites once every 24 hours, and click once on an ad, which usually says something like "Click Here to Feed the Hungry". The revenue generated by that click goes entirely to charity.

I should add that Greater Good has a good price on a pair of goats for Rwandan families, too.

Urban Monk is donating $500 from ad revenue to charity, so I'm linking to him in hopes that he gets all the ad revenue necessary to write that check ASAP. You can also link to him - his preferred method is that you write a blog post as though it were the last blog post EVER - and help give without having to open your wallet. Check out his site whether you want to link to him or not - he's a good guy.

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I'd also like to add Kiva.org to the list. That's a website where you can help people in poverty-stricken areas finance their businesses with a micro-loan. Plus, since nearly all the loans are paid back, you can invest the returned money in another person. It looks like a great venture, and I've heard some great things about it.

Troy Hadley's picture

Sarah did a post on Kiva a while back. They are great.

Guest's picture
Yan

I learned about Alex's Coupons recently. They give away part of their commissions to fight childhood cancer. Here is the site history and some of their recent donations:

http://www.alexscoupons.com/media-relations.html

Guest's picture
Alexandra

Troy-
On the price of charity livestock: if you look at groups such as Heifer Interntional, you'll find that the $300 goes toward their program of giving livestock to needy families. Chances are, the charity your mother donates to doesn't actually take her $300 check and use it as a restricted donation (that is, a money that ONLY goes toward buying 2 sheep for one family). Most likely, all of their donations go into one big pot, and it is allocated according to what is needed at that time (i.e., if they have more families needing water buffalos than sheep). In that sense, the idea of buying two sheep (or cows, or whatever)is more of a marketing gimick than anything else, and it works-- people in my family like the idea of saying that they gave each other goats for Christmas. :)

On where the money goes: If a charity is a 501 c3 organization, they should be sending their revenue/expenses information to Uncle Sam every year. If they do, then you can see how they spend their money. One great site for this is www.charitynavigator.org. They look at 501c3 charities and give them ratings based on how well they spend their money. They also include neat little tidbits such as the CEO/ President's salary, and what percentage of revenue they spend on administrative and fundraising costs. Sometimes a charity you want to evaluate isn't there, but a lot of the big ones are. I, too, want to see my money spent well, so I always check out my chosen charities before I give.

Hope this helps!

Troy Hadley's picture

Thanks, Alexandra, for posting that information.

Actually, the org my mom went through wasn't something like Heifer, it was one of those Christian charities where you send money every month and correspond with the kid. But mom wanted to do more, so she contacted the organization's hq and asked about giving the family a business loan (like buy one of those scooter rickshaws so that the family's father could drive that for a living, rather than toiling on a farm - turns out that there aren't any paved roads where the family is, so that was a no-go). The hq in turn contacted the country coordinator, who contacted the regional coordinator, right on down until someone who is in contact with the family suggested sheep. So it was definitely an more direct assessment of need than it might seem at a glance.

Mom thinks that the money also went towards a shed and some vaccinations for the animals, so maybe that was it. In this case, I think they took a little extra for themselves (the org) but it wasn't the typical "pooling" type of charity money pot. Also, they are going to send her pictures of the family with the sheep and all, so she's mollified.