Thursday, May 8, 2008

Giving

I sponsor a child in Indonesia through World Vision. She's five years old now, and growing like a weed. Several times a year, I get a short message from her, mostly in the form of crayon drawings on a seasonal theme. I stick them to my fridge where I can see them every day.

I have full confidence in World Vision's integrity, otherwise I wouldn't trust them with my money. However, I have one ongoing problem: they never stop asking for my money and I never feel comfortable with my decisions on how much to give.

One year, I decided to experiment with being more generous. I decided I would say Yes to every request they made, even if my donation was minimal. Over the course of that year, not only did I make $35 monthly contributions to "my" child's program, and purchase all my Christmas Gifts through World Vision's gift catalogue, but I responded to every mailed special request for more funds.

You know what? Those kids in third world countries are awfully hungry. I could never send enough. I'd take care of drought victims in Africa, and with my tax receipt for that donation would come a notice that the children of Afghanistan were suffering. I'd send another cheque, only to find that more money was needed to send shipments of seeds to South Asia in time for the rainy season.

At the end of the year I got a final receipt, showing how much I'd given. Relative to my income, it was a whopping sum. I wasn't sorry that I'd been generous, but I had to stop and think about my own responsibility to save for a rainy day. Especially since I have no children, I figure I'll need cash on hand to make sure I'm looked after in my old age. There won't be anyone to bail me out if the nursing home bills are past due. I wouldn't like to become a burden on society in my own right.

Now I say No instead of Yes around half the time. But I'm still not comfortable with that compromise. I'd rather say Yes all the time. Poor kids. And grownups too. Can you imagine dying from the flu because you can't afford $5 for Aspirin to bring down your fever? Or if someone you loved died that way? Yeah, it's a crazy world.

Anyway, despite my dilemma, I can't recommend World Vision highly enough. If you're looking for a Mother's Day gift that requires no shopping or wrapping and makes you come off looking like a hero, here's the link to World Vision's online gift catalogue.

I'm off to make a donation for the victims of the Myanmar cyclone - as soon as I can decide how much I should give.

12 comments:

jameil1922 said...

wow! i'm always wary of those donation sites. that's good that you give, though. i don't know how i got on st. jude's list but they send me those address mailer things. i want to tell them to stop wasting their money. i suppose i should call.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I'm glad you give. I donate randomly whenever it pops into my head, but not as much as $35 a month. I guess I'm working on that supporting myself in old age plan if at all possible.

Karen said...

Interesting. I focus all my donations on local charities. Not to say that starving kids around the world are not important, but I like to focus on the hungry families in my community.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: It's good to be wary of charities. Many of them aren't all they claim to be. I stick to a few that I know and trust.

Ron: I believe you have to take care of yourself first in order to better be able to help others. Like when you fly, they say if the oxygen masks come down, put your own on first, then help other people. Otherwise you're toast and then other people have to worry about you.

Karen: That's a good point. There are so many people in need right on our doorsteps. They need help just as much as the people on other continents.

Nilsa S. said...

I am all for making donations to worthy causes. And believe me, I do. However, I think organizations walk an ethical line by constantly coming back to you for more. Because, while there may be a few generous and willing donors, such as yourself, there are far more people who would just walk away for being bothered. Some, never to return.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Pay yourself first, i.e. before you pay anybody else anything, sock away whatever in the savings account (12.5% of paycheck is good). Then you can see if you can help the kid/organization out beyond the set monthly donation. I have three faves I donate to regularly: SOS Children's Villages, Doctors Without Borders and a coastal sea rescue organization (bizarrely, Norway's coast guard doesn't rescue people at sea).

unsigned said...

I belong to the Save The Money Foundation. For the price of a cup of coffee every day you too could have a high interest savings account. Please act now - because the next dollar your save - could be your own.

Jenski said...

I usually give to people I know who are participating in some fundraising event or who have connections to Africa and travel there or give clothes to non-profits. Someday I will be able to give to other things monetarily. I am very inspired by your giving!

ConverseMomma said...

You are my new hero. Thanks for the link. And, I'm sorry you have ever had to justify your decisions in regards to babies. Thanks for sharing on my blog.
Peace out, sista!

1218Blog said...

I can see your dilemma. But I commend you for doing something. Every little bit helps. It's tough to gage who is a reputable organization and it makes it unfair to those who are really good because people get skeptical and stop giving. But I'm sure you will come up with a happy medium.

nicole said...

I pull my head for you doing this.

I, personally don't like that most of these organizations take most of the money :(
It's always a tough one to decide.

I just have one big wish. That the greed of the big people and companies out there stops one day and everyone can live a normal Life.

Sparkling Red said...

Nilsa: I'm sure they've scared off some people this way. You're right, it is a fine line.

Keera: A coast guard that doesn't rescue people? That makes no sense to me.

Unsigned: You're hilarious.

Jenski: That's a reasonable approach. I often say no to people who are fundraising for other charities because my whole budget for giving is already gone.

conversemomma: Thanks! Then it's a mutual admiration society, because you're my hero for standing up for your kids and your views as you do.
:-)

1218blog: In the end I guess any giving is good. :-)

Nicole: I share your wish. Individuals can do a lot, but the world will only change in big ways when the organizations with the most power and money smarten up. If ever... :-p