We all want to be generous in giving to fight extreme poverty, but as we do, we also want to make sure that our donation really makes a difference.
To ensure you are happy with the donation you make, it’s important to do a bit of research on the organisation first. Think about the following questions:
- Do the issues fit? You should give to the organisations that work on the issues that you’re most passionate about and interested in.
- Do the values fit? You should give to the charities that you feel best fit your values and priorities in terms of how they work, where they work, and why they work that way.
- At what level do they operate? You should give to groups that you feel are working at the most important level – grassroots, regional, national, or international, and who finds the right balance (in your mind) between doing things on the ground to improve lives and campaigning to change the rules.
- Are they an accredited organisation? Are they member of the peak-body for development charities like Interaction in the USA, BOND in the UK or ACFID in Australia or CAC (corporate affairs commission) in Nigeria. Belonging to these organisations means that they subscribe to a set of rules around how money can be used, and often that there’s positive peer pressure on them to adopt policies
If this is the sort of organisation that you want to give to, the next thing is to make sure that you are comfortable that the donation you are giving will really make a difference. The key thing to look for is measurable impact. That’s not just facts and figures, but case studies that show that the organisation’s work is making a change and sustaining that change over a longer period, whether for specific beneficiaries, the environment or through policies.
Some questions you could consider asking the charity are:
- How will someone’s life change because of this donation?
- What does success look like for the project/initiative that I’m giving to?
- What real change has this organisation created or enabled in people’s lives to date? Can they show it to you?
- How does this project enable a community to be more self-sufficient and capable so it won’t need aid in the future?
- What does the organisation do to ensure that money won’t be corruptly used? What steps will they take if corruption is suspected or found?
- Have any of your projects failed? Why? Development is risky, and not all projects work. Good organisations recognise this, and are open about the things they’ve done in the past that didn’t work.
While many people are tempted to ask about an organisation’s administration costs, we’ve left this question off the list. This is because asking about why they need to spend so much on admin costs is a little like asking why an airline might be spending so much on safety costs.
Organisations need to spend money on administration to make sure things are done professionally. They need to pay for staff and management (accountability) to make sure your money doesn’t go missing due to corruption. They spend money on communication so you find out how your donations were spent and what difference it made. In the best agencies money also gets puts into research and evaluation to understand what really works in ending poverty.
And, that’s really the question we should be asking: Does it work?
When it comes to ending poverty, we want to fund things that work. Then, once we know they work, we want them to be as cost-effective as they can be, meaning that we get the best possible price for the best possible outcome.
In ending poverty, it’s the difference between asking ‘how much of my money goes to the school I’m funding’, and ‘can the children read and write properly’?