As a teenager, I began sponsoring a poverty-stricken boy in the Caribbean. Twelve years and thousands of dollars later I flew down to meet him - and to learn if my efforts did any good at all.
"Using pejorative terms like "handouts" and "doling out", some parts of the media are mounting a campaign to suggest Britain should be embarrassed by our level of aid giving. But the idea that aid is generous is absurd. Some families, inspired by religious tradition, think it is appropriate to give 10% of what they have to charity, £10 in every £100 of earnings. In 2010, the UK gave not £10, not £1, but 56p ($0.91) in overseas aid for every £100 ($163) we earned as a country. On average, since 1990 we have given even less, 35p ($0.57)." [Giving aid to poor countries is hardly a great act of generosity] [more inside]
Child's Play Returns: Last year, Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins got sick of gamers being portrayed as violence-drenched dweebs and asked their readers to pitch in for a toy drive for Seattle's childrens' hospital. They ended up raising over a quarter of a million dollars in toys and cash in the space of just a few weeks. This year, they've added four more childrens' hospitals to their list for their readers to support during the holiday season. Mike and Jerry originally did this as a way to rebut the perception of gamers, but it also shows the power of personal credibility with regards to Web sites -- the people who contributed didn't just do it to redeem the image of gamers, they did it because Mike and Jerry asked them to. This political season we've seen how bloggers can add to the coffers of candidates by endorsing them to their readers, but I think this is an even stronger case of online personal credibility translating into action (a similar case, on a slightly smaller scale: Pamie Ribon of Pamie.com and her readers contributing nearly 500 new books to San Diego County Libraries). Would that more of the "big" bloggers and popular sites did more of this sort of thing.
Gift hub - Connecting Funders, Active Citizens, and Advisors. Phil Cubeta, who is known to many as the weblog world's Happy Tutor (et al.), wants to stop just talking about philanthropy and actually do something. Now this a Corporate Guy that I actually respect. He's recently decided to 'go from satire to sermon, from noting problems to working for solutions,' and brought together some other smart and influential people to talk about philanthropy, activism, volunteerism, charity, social movements, civil society, and emerging democracy, and is one of the people organizing an Open Space for Giving Conference in Chicago. Can a webby philanthropic bridge be built between the chaotic, emergent ferment in the wired world and the world of corporate wealth? I don't know, but I wish him luck.
'Tis the season to donate! How does your favorite charity stack up?
GIVER BEWARE! If you're gonna give, don't get taken. The New York branch of the Better Business Bureau has some useful material on how to spot scams over legitimate charities. "As awful as it sounds, there may be those that seek to profit from this misery." Useful tips and information are also available at Give.Org, the Urban Legends Resource Center and the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. Maybe I'm just too cynical, but even the legitimate charities sound like scams to me. Why are there so many "disaster relief funds" forming? Wouldn't it be easier if there was just one place to give? Why all these middlemen?
Race For the Cure In the midst of our mass grief and generosity are we forgetting the daily victims of this disease that also robs children of a parent? Are normal charities being short changed?