Dear reader, I hope you will forgive me for being a little late with my links post this week. Thursday is the day I’m supposed to use to talk about work, but since I am unemployed, trust me, that would be a very boring post. And I think this is important enough to get it up now.
One of the things I have done in the past, and I know others do too, at Christmas or other gift-giving times is to donate for other people. Oxfam Unwrapped is popular for this, I used to enjoy tailoring my gifts to the recipient, like the year I gave my friend Lucy condoms (her mother is a family planning nurse and so the whole family is awkwardly passionate about sexual health). I won’t be doing that this year; I’m knitting from my stash for Christmas, which means most people I know won’t be getting gifts till the new year (sorry guys, but it’s OK because you won’t want to wear your gloves til April anyway.)
However, seeing this post reminded me that I’ve learned some things about giving to charity recently, mostly from reading material at one website: Good Intentions Are Not Enough. They pretty much do what they say on the tin: explain why, as commendable as giving is, giving aid without being thoughtful can end up doing more harm than good. I highly recommend spending some time on their site. Particularly unexpected for me was the idea that giving money is usually better than giving time or goods. But it makes sense when you think about it: in almost any situation, it’s better to be able to pay someone trained to do a good job than it is to utilise untrained, irregular workers who also have a day job. Good Intents have a handy holiday giving guide; I also recommend their various posts about in-kind donation (this post about why not to donate shoes is my favourite because it is extremely concrete). You can also read up elsewhere on voluntourism and why administration costs might be a good thing.
I can’t tell you which charity to give to. But be aware that the pushy charities aren’t always the best ones; sometimes religious charities come with strings attached; and that sometimes, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the cash.
Also, don’t forget to think about giving locally as well as or instead of to the sexy international charities! I hear it begins at home.