The fundamental concept of the nonprofit sector is that there are other organizations, with expert and experienced staff that can spend your charitable dollars and execute programs better (or more efficiently, perhaps) than you can. Donating $25 to a local homeless shelter presumes that that organization can better allocate the funds to the greatest needs given that they already work with that population, and intimately know what needs are greatest, whether that’s food, clothes, or perhaps a bed for the night. It presumes some sort of due diligence or process that we each can’t feasibly undertake ourselves when handing that money directly to a homeless individual. But lately, there’s been a new concept on who knows how to best spend those dollars and translate them into meaningful help. It’s not each of us, or well-established nonprofits. Nor is it start up nonprofits that are particularly innovative in their approach. It’s the recipients themselves. That no one knows better what they need, than an individual in need themselves.
That’s the premise of GiveDirectly. It allows anyone to give directly to extremely impoverished individuals around the world through an unconditional cash transfer with the presumption that those individuals will do what is most needed with the money given their vast needs. By doing this, it eliminates much of the bureaucracy of international NGO’s, which can often take a significant percentage of your donation in (appropriately needed) administrative costs.
The concept is an interesting one, to say the least, and has received a good amount of traction and engaged in rigorous third party research to evaluate this concept. From their website:
This study documented large, positive, and sustainable impacts across a wide range of outcomes including assets, earnings (from sources other than our transfers), food security, mental health, and domestic violence, after on average four months. The study found no evidence of impacts on alcohol or tobacco use, crime, or inflation. It also examined a number of design questions such as how to size transfers and whether to give them to men or women.
What do you think about organizations like giving directly? Do they speak to you? Share your thoughts with us!
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