In the wake of a disaster, or in the face of endemic poverty, every donation is helpful, right?
In the U.S. people often feel compelled to reach out and help in any way they can when they hear about a country in need. It’s human instinct to offer support in all possible ways. We all want to feel like we are doing something to make a difference in the lives of those affected by a disaster, war or other life altering events. But are we making a difference?
Most people don’t realize that we are too frequently limiting our impact with inefficient giving. Fortunately, there some steps we can all take to make sure that when we give we’re making the most of our donations. Read on to learn more about how the giving process works, what happens to your donations after you’ve made them, and how to give more efficiently in the future.
A young girl in front of government funded housing in Guiuan, the Philippines, January 2014.
Skip clothing for relief and give hand-me-downs to organizations that serve your local community
Most of us have gently used clothing, shoes, toys and other items that we no longer need. Many of us have them around the house or in storage just waiting to be donated. It is common for people to see a major disaster as an opportunity to pass those items on to others who might need them. However, the logistics of delivering and distributing a large volume of unsorted items to a country which has been torn apart by disaster and lacks infrastructure often results in those items being stored in warehouses or discarded by those on the ground who don’t have the means to organize them and hand them out. In short, the items don’t get to where you intended them to go, and can actually end up costing organizations that try to deliver them money in the long run. When donating material items like clothing and shoes, an organization within your own community that is equipped to distribute the items (such as Goodwill or a local thrift shop) is your best chance for getting them to the people who can really use them quickly and without waste.
Bulk donations are best left to corporations and large businesses
In November 2013, when the largest storm ever to make landfall devastated the Philippines, many of us watched in dismay as storm-affected citizens pleaded with media and the public to please send food and water. In situations like post-typhoon recovery in the Philippines, many of us here at home want to send food, water, toiletries, medicines and other supplies that are needed in the immediate aftermath. What most people don’t realize is that the logistics of coordinating, organizing, packing and shipping a large volume of small donations from many different sources not only causes costs to escalate, but also delays the shipment of those much-needed materials to the areas that are waiting for them. For these reasons, organizations like Operation USA prefer to work with large businesses and corporations who can provide entire truckloads or containers of materials that can be easily packed and transported, getting them on the ground quickly. While in-kind donation offers from individuals are appreciated, we are able to work much faster and more efficiently when dealing with large scale donations and pre-packed items in bulk. If you aren’t able to provide (or connect us with someone who can provide) a large in-kind donation, the best way to help in this area is to make a monetary donation in support of shipping costs.
Look at the big picture and commit to long term recovery
When a community needs help following a major disaster, there is a sense of urgency to get involved, especially when media coverage is 24/7 and emotional appeals tug at our heart strings. However, it is important to remember that the road to recovery is long and challenging, and will take much longer than a few weeks or months for countries affected by disaster to rebuild and repair infrastructure. There are many ways to get involved, and opportunities will continue to present themselves in the months and years after a disaster has struck. Sign up for email lists and follow your favorite organizations on social media to stay informed. Even if you don’t see any opportunity to help in the short term, there will always be more ways to generate a lasting impact in the long term. Plus, you never know who you know–ask around among friends and family to see if anyone has a connection or works for a company that might help.
Think Outside the Box
Once you’ve made the decision to get involved and lend your support, it’s a good idea to pause and think about your options so you can hone in on the best way to help. If you don’t have the means to help organizations providing immediate relief, it may be a better decision to pledge to a future recovery project. It is also beneficial to think about the resources you have available to you. Do you work for a major corporation? Inquire as to whether they will make a bulk in-kind donation, or if they’ll match employee giving during a fundraiser. Do you have a special cause that is near and dear to your heart, like education? Research organizations that will focus on rebuilding schools in disaster-affected areas and learn how you can donate to specific campaigns or get involved as a volunteer. Are you limited in how much money you can donate? Start a fundraiser in your community or enlist friends and family to donate or help raise funds–a little from everyone adds up to a lot!
Make the greatest impact with a monetary donation
While giving money may not seem like the most personal or tangible way to make a difference, the fact is that organizations like Operation USA that have years of experience and partners all over the world can make the most of every penny that you donate. As long as you’ve done your research and give to an organization that has a history of success and is transparent with financials, you can rest assured that you are making an impact–in the immediate aftermath and the long term recovery process–when you give a financial gift.
It is always admirable and much appreciated when Americans jump at the chance to help people affected by disaster, war and other life-altering events around the world. Operation USA is lucky to have so many thoughtful and committed supporters. This year, we’re challenging all our donors to help spread the word about more efficient giving, and we hope that everyone who makes a donation will understand how efficient giving helps us make an even greater impact on the lives of those who need it most.
Read the interview.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Girl Scout Cookie Championship! One lucky winner will be contacted via Twitter direct message with directions on how to collect your prize of a year’s supply of the Girl Scout cookie you crave!
A huge Girl Scout CONGRATS to Thin Mints! It was a close race, but you’ve won the hearts of millions!
Some of my best memories are the joys of getting a sale for Girl Scout cookies … myself as a girl going door-to-door, and my own daughter when a neighbor bought two cases from her to treat his whole office. Chances are you know that we are in the midst of Girl Scout cookie season – and if you have a daughter, you may have a young cookie entrepreneur of your own. There is no shortage of options for consumers when it comes to purchasing an after-dinner treat, but there is something about Girl Scout cookies that causes them to rise to the top.
Perhaps it’s their limited availability (cookie season is just a few months a year); perhaps it’s because of their unique flavors. But in my long association with Girl Scouts, including serving during my time in the Senate as co-chair of Girl Scout Troop Capitol Hill, I’ve always believed it’s because everyone knows that buying Girl Scout cookies is good for the world. When you buy cookies from a Girl Scout, you are investing in so much more than a box of treats – you are investing in her future, and the future leadership of our country.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is a vitally important program for girls. A cornerstone of the Girl Scout experience, it’s the largest, most successful girl-run business in the world. Through this program, girls not only learn goal setting but also decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics — key 21st century business and finance skills. The Girl Scout Research Institute studies these benefits and found 85 percent of girls develop money management skills through the cookie program.
Many times, Girl Scouts decide to utilize their earned funds to give back to their communities, which is good for the world. They may decide to donate troop proceeds to a local animal hospital, build a playground or use their hard-earned money to help fund a back-to-nature wilderness adventure. Whatever the specific goals and outcomes, I can testify that participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program does great things for girls.
On a deeper level, financial skills are leadership skills in an ever-changing economy and world. As the premier leadership organization for girls, Girl Scouts supports girls’ financial confidence, skills and independence by providing them with resources focused on everything from saving to developing strong credit, minimizing debt, philanthropy and financing their dreams.
According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study “Having It All: Girls and Financial Literacy,” girls are quite clear that they need and want financial literacy skills to help them achieve their dreams, with 90 percent saying it is important for them to learn how to manage money. However, just 12 percent of girls surveyed feel confident in making financial decisions. It is critical to ensure today’s girls are developing the financial savvy, business skills and innovative thinking that will position them to be leaders. An overwhelming majority of girls feel gender is not a barrier to what they can accomplish financially.
So perhaps that’s why buying Girl Scout cookies feels so satisfying to me. After the boxes are empty and the cookies are gone, you’re left with a feeling of fullness and fulfillment, knowing that you played a small part in helping a young girl – a young leader – reach her truest potential. In a world that too often throws up roadblocks for girls, you helped tear them down. The cookies? That’s just the dessert, your prize if you will, for a job well done.
Hutchison is a former U.S. senator.
By Dylan Nord
This guest post comes to you from our friends at We-Care.com.
In February, we at We-Care.com made the decision to feature Operation USA as our Cause of the Month. Throughout the month, we’ve highlighted all the amazing work that Operation USA has done and continues to do. As the month comes to a close, we wanted to take an opportunity to tell you a bit more about what is possible through We-Care.com, so that we can continue to generate donations together for this great cause and help communities in need when disasters strike.
Think back on the last time you bought something online. Was it in the last year? Month? Week? Shopping online used to just be for those hard to find items. It was either for those few tech-savvy people, or it was for those people in rural Illinois to get that special edition Star Trek collectible without traveling to Chicago (We love Star Trek!). Now, shopping online is something most of us do without thinking twice. The prevalence of online stores, competitive prices, and convenient shipping has made online shopping something most of us do, but now you’ve got another reason to shop online—supporting Operation USA.
We-Care.com is proud to partner with Operation USA to allow their supporters to earn donations anytime they shop online. It’s fun, easy, and free. That’s right: it won’t cost you a dime. Just go through We-Care.com and shop at any of the 2,700 partnered merchants, and you’ll have a portion of your purchase returned to Operation USA as a donation! Login to your We-Care.com account to track your donations, see where you’ve been earning donations, and find other ways to support your cause.
Click HERE to get started.
Dylan Nord works with nonprofits to maximize fundraising through We-Care.com. Working with partners like the ASPCA, the National Autism Association, Save the Children, Operation USA and Clean Water Action, Dylan has helped supporters raise over $5 million dollars through We-Care.com. Dylan believes that small deeds can add up, that we all have a responsibility to do good, and that technology is creating collaboration that will change the world. Dylan holds a Bachelor of Arts from Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. Follow Dylan on Twitter, @dylannord.