Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cost-Effective Compassion: Getting the most bang for your charitable buck

Have you ever given to a charity and wondered how much of it made it to the targeted people in need? And beyond that, how much of an impact you were really making by giving at all? Well fret no more. The cover story by in the February 2012 issue of Christianity Today by Bruce Wydick (sorry, I'm just catching up on my periodicals) was written for you: "Cost-Effective Compassion: Economists rate the impact of 10 popular strategies for helping the poor".

"Today, thanks to economic globalization and the Internet, those who want to care for the poor overseas enjoy a plethora of attractive options: sponsoring a child, donating a farm animal, making a small loan to a budding entrepreneur, installing a well in a village, getting a morning caffeine jolt with fair-trade (instead of free-trade) coffee—among others.

"But what are the best ways to help those living in developing countries? By "best," I mean most effective: things that actually help people rise out of poverty, and that carry with them a sizable "bang for your buck"—programs in which the impact on the poor is significant per donated dollar.

"Giving that gives in response to feelings but which disregards consequences can turn into a narcissism that is only semiconscious of motives. Genuine love carefully considers how an action affects the recipient. In some cases, love may call us to acts of compassion even when there is little hope of a life-changing result, such as when we stay by the side of a dying person. But in many cases, it is more feasible to measure tangible impacts of our giving, especially when it comes to helping the poor. In these cases, we are not being good stewards if we give blindly without understanding the impact of our giving. The blessings of givers should be rooted in the blessings of receivers."
To answer this question, Wydick polled top development economists who specialize in analyzing development programs. He also lists a number of organizations that are meeting these needs and notes those that are faith-based organizations. Here are his results (For a more detailed explanation of the ratings, see the full article):
  1. Get clean water to rural villages. (Rating: 8.3)
  2. Fund de-worming treatments for children. (Rating: 7.8)
  3. Provide mosquito nets. (Rating: 7.3)
  4. Sponsor a child. (Rating: 6.9)
  5. Give wood-burning stoves. (Rating: 6.0)
  6. Give a microfinance loan. (Rating: 4.2)
  7. Fund reparative surgeries. (Rating: 3.9)
  8. Donate a farm animal. (Rating: 3.8)
  9. Drink fair-trade coffee. (Rating: 1.9)
  10. Give a kid a laptop. (Rating: 1.8)
Feedback: Do these ratings make a difference in the way you approach charitable giving? What types of charitable giving have you contributed to? Is there something missing in the research done here?

No comments: