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How To Assess Popular Philanthropy Trends
December 31, 1969
Multiple times in the past year, the philanthropy world has been shaken by different charitable trends that have fizzled out a few weeks later as people begin to understand that their initial view of the organization was just a little one-sided. It's difficult, in a world full of people who want to do something good, to find an opportunity that is legitimately invested in making a difference. The result, however, for just a little bit of research is phenomenal. Here are a few general guidelines to help you make your charity contributions matter the most:
Don't be the first person to jump on the bandwagon
If you see a really awesome philanthropic or charitable trends, take a deep breath before jumping to action. While the cause may actually be as awesome as it initially seems, all too often good people are tricked by very clever marketing. Most of the time, fifteen minutes of research could keep you from falling for another organization that may have a catchy, but not quite effective, way of combatting whatever issue that they work in. If you're really curious, just google criticism for whatever organization that you're interested in and you're bound to find something.
Know the difference between advocacy and action
One major problem that many people have with some philanthropic organizations is that they work for advocacy, not action. The infamous Kony 2012, for example, works for advocacy of their issue, not actually resolving the issue. While advocacy is extremely important and something that is worthy of funding, many people mistakenly donate to advocacy funds rather than to action funds, because the advocacy organizations are doing what they were meant to do very well--spreading the word. Action organizations sometimes have a harder time marketing because they simply don't allot the money to do it.
Know who you can look to for guidance
There are so many awesome individuals and blogs to look to in the philanthropy industry--and these guys make it easy to discern whether or not the charity that you want to support actually works effectively for your cause. One of these blogs, Good Intentions are Not Enough, specifically addresses the issue of finding charities that work well. You can also research your charity in databases like Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy that track how much an organization intakes versus how much they put toward the issue. You'll be amazed at how much some organizations are able to give, and then horrified at how little some others do.
If it's free, don't buy it
When looking for a viable charity, keep in mind that sustainability matters most when it comes to service and non-profit organizations. Chances are, if they give something away for free, then they aren't very sustainable. For example, TOMS shoes is often criticized for ruining local shoe markets by providing people with cheap, free shoes. Rather than creating jobs to make the shoes, they are flown in from sweatshops elsewhere and give the people little incentive to buy footwear produced by local craftsmen. Instead of supporting organizations that vow to donate things, find ones that will use their profit to support sustainable industries in the areas that need them. It is also good to support small businesses that support your own local community. Overall, it's probably better to support a restaurant that uses local and fair-trade ingredients than one that donates food abroad.
Look for things that work with people, not for people
Like I said earlier, you don't want to support an organization that gives things away for free--but one that engages the community that it supports so that each of its members are able to play a part in the betterment of the community. Also look to supporting initiatives that help the community in more than just physical ways--like schools that educate, computer labs that teach skills, and organizations that band people together for the equal treatment of little girls. These organizations definitely exist, and look toward donors like you to find and support them instead of high-profile charity organizations that may donate 7% of their income to the schools themselves.
The Bottom Line
Basically, when finding a worthwhile charity, follow these guidelines and you'll be able to make a much bigger splash than with your Facebook like or buying a pair of dubiously charitable shoes. If you want to change the world for the better, you must be willing to spend just a little time making sure that the measures you are taking are the right ones. Of course, any effort is welcomed, but why not seek out those charities that really do make the difference that so many needy people deserve?