Choosing A Cause To Support

Written by Kendra

It’s difficult to decide which causes to support. You could donate to impoverished children in need of education, to those affected by domestic violence, or to animals that face the risk of extinction. When faced with these sorts of choices, most people are unable to make a truly rational, calculated decision.

To add more complexity, there may be hundreds – if not thousands – of organizations that help each of these major causes. After you select the cause, you then need to select the charity that that most deserves either your time or your money.

Japan destruction

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In 2011 Reuters’ Felix Salmon wrote a thought-provoking piece in which he called on people not to donate to Japan following the earthquake that shattered the country and affected so many lives. His argument was based on the idea that we are too easily provoked to action by harrowing images, and much less so by a cold analysis of how our money could be best deployed.

“We went through this after the Haiti earthquake, and all of the arguments which applied there apply to Japan as well. Earmarking funds is a really good way of hobbling relief organizations and ensuring that they have to leave large piles of money unspent in one place while facing urgent needs in other places. And as Matthew Bishop and Michael Green said last year, we are all better at responding to human suffering caused by dramatic, telegenic emergencies than to the much greater loss of life from ongoing hunger, disease and conflict.”

Salmon believes that we should donate unrestricted funds so help can be given in the most productive way. He mentions Doctors Without Borders as one example of an organization that which doesn’t “jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices.” So, he decided to donate $400 to the organization, rather than to Japan, which is a “wealthy country” capable of “printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money.”

While the tone of Salmon’s piece was controversial, it forced many people to consider the efficacy of the donations they make. While all donations will ultimately be helpful, and appreciated by the people who benefit from them, some types of donations may be more beneficial than others.

Doctors without borders

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Philanthropists will sometimes start out with a specific goal that they think they can achieve, and then they will deploy their money toward reaching that goal. We see this in the efforts of Ms. Lois Pope around medical research and access to clean water. And we see how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has set itself the goals of eradicating malaria and helping reduce the incidence of HIV. Once a new goal is selected, it will find partners that can help.

This is an approach that you can replicate on your own. Pick a cause you want to support, like helping those with cancer, and then you can look into how your time or money could be best spent. Research charities and find one where your time and money are likely to have the biggest impact.






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