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Philanthropy: Cash or Cows?

June 16, 2010

Heifer International…Okay, so they’re not really quite as directly related as you’d think, but basically this article from Share The World’s Resources talks about whether or not charitable cash transfers matter.

Which led me to thinking… a lot of the lack of charitable or philanthropic giving in South Asia seems to stem from suspicion or skepticism when it comes to agency transparency or doubt about giving charitably in the first place (there is always a steadfast mindset to save rather than spend “needlessly”).

So I was wondering: what do you think is more useful? Giving cash or giving something tangible like care packages? There are tons of small community organizations that get together and customize in-kind gifts, or little packages that they send overseas… sometimes affiliated with an “official” organization, sometimes not. Cash is more flexible and can be used everywhere, but I know a lot of Asians who are highly suspicious of where their money is going and some of them even firmly believe that the money doesn’t “really do anything useful” because it ends up just funding overhead costs.

Personally, I like “hybrid” giving vehicles. The ones where you donate cash to an organization, but that organization sponsors or builds something practical in a particular region. Try giving a goat to an impoverished region. It’s more practical and much more “solid” than just sending money to an organization where you can get caught up in the “strings” of where it’s going. Help dig a well in India. There are a lot of ways to give where your money ends up making something useful and practical and long term for an entire community.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are now more new and innovative ways to give and display your philanthropic hearts. There’s no need to be skeptical – there are plenty of ways to rest assured knowing that you’re doing something that will benefit the long-term welfare of the community.

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