Is Charitable Giving Good?

Is Charitable Giving Good?

 Is charitable giving good?

As a charitable organization you would think that our answer would be a resounding yes, but that is not necessarily the case. You see, charity can be a good thing, but even when it is, it must be scrutinized and tested to ensure that the macro level implications are not causing more harm than good. It is not as cut and dry as making a donation and watching the world magically become better. Charities are complex, and if not careful, they can easily miss the forest for the trees.  According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, approximately 1.54 million nonprofits were registered with the IRS in 2016 and of these reporting non-profits 2.62 trillion in revenues and 5.99 trillion in assets were identified. ( That is a lot of potential, for good and for bad. 
We've seen it go both ways.  Much of the time people give to meet an immediate need. This is called, relief aid. And while we absolutely agree that there is a time and a place for relief aid, it is not sustainable. It is a band-aid style approach that addresses the symptoms of a problem rather than the problem itself. Based on what we know about Maslow's hierarchy of needs a person cannot self-actualize until their basic needs are met. If you haven't eaten in days and your stomach is in pain, you could care less about how your kids are going to get to school. This is why relief aid is important, it helps alleviate an immediate need in order to start the slow process of change. 

A Cycle of Dependency

The unfortunate part is that much of the time when charities set out to help the materially poor, they do so using a hierarchical model where the "haves" give to the "have-nots". This is problematic for many reasons but of the more important is that is maintains the unequal power dynamic of rich vs. poor, and it creates a cycle of dependency that provides little incentive for the recipient/s to engage in the resolution of their own problems. Furthermore, organizations, by nature of their mission rely upon impoverished communities to further promote their work. For example, you see this with the buy one, give one models found in Toms Shoes, and the blanket company Sack Cloth and Ashes, which give a product for every product purchased.  While well intentioned, these companies flood a region with "free" products and the end result is more harmful than good. Some critics have even gone as far as comparing this type of charity to modern day colonialism. 
While I will leave that for you to decide, we are certain that good intentions are not enough. Charity work must be built around tangible processes that employ the gifts, talents, and skills of every individual in a community. This short video, A Potluck, not a Soup Kitchen - From The Chalmers Center. goes a long way in highlighting what our aim should be with charitable giving. 

Where Everyone Works

We believe that the best type of charity is the kind that elevates the abilities of an individual and helps them to discover the power of their own contribution. This is the type of charity where everyone works! Work is not just about money and survival. It is about cultivation, creation, and the human experience. Going all the way back to the Garden of Eden humanity was tasked with stewarding over God's creation and discovering the potentials that exists within it. As image bearers, every single person has something to bring to the table. This is God's design, and we get the privilege of joining Him in creating meaning and purpose in our own lives and the lives of those around us through the use of our unique gifts. We get to toil and make realities of possibilities, turn raw material into potential, and build community and culture around what we cultivate. 

 Charity Worth Giving

God gave every single person the gifts, talents and skills that when utilized build up families, communities, and cultures. The best type of charity is the type that removes barriers between people. It lowers the walls and encourages individuals to participate in, and in many cases, lead the charge in their own empowerment. This is what we are doing here at TK Collective. We are using charitable giving to support women and their communities in the establishment of meaningful work. This model centers the voice of the beneficiaries and makes giving work for them.  

Things To Consider

That is not to say that all charity has to be done this way to be valuable, there are so many amazing organizations out there doing good work. It does mean, that at minimum, you need to ask some really difficult questions about your intentions and the intentions of the organization you are wanting to invest in. Below are a few questions to ask yourself as you are considering partnering with a charity. 

  • What is your motivation to give? 
  • Does the charity align with your values?
  • Is the charity addressing a need not otherwise addressed?
  • Is there organizational transparency and accountability? 
  • Is the charity perpetuating a wealth gap? Are they operating using the "Haves" and the "Have-nots model?
  • Is the organizations approach holistic? Are they not only meeting their beneficiaries needs but helping them find their voice and giving them tools to no longer need services?
  • Is the organization centering the voices of its beneficiaries?

While not all giving is created equal, it is an important aspect of human flourishing, and we encourage it. In doing so, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the exploitative systems so often tied up in donor dollars. Which is the reason for this article. We want to help you feel comfortable and confident in giving for maximum impact. Aside from education, one of the ways that we do this is by evaluating and reporting our impact year by year. We are currently preparing last year's report and will be sending it out to our donors. If you are interested in seeing it, and not yet a donor, we would love to send it to you-just shoot us an email. 

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