Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another thing about donations

This time I ask you for advice. Have you ever donated to something in a foreign country? I'm looking to donate to something, and it's important that it's overseas, because Google will match extra money if it is.

Some things I know about already and are not relevant for this request:
Kiva and other microlending things- that's cool. I'll probably do that too. But I'm looking for straight up donation opportunities right now.

Some things I know about and am looking for recommendations about:
Room to Read (I was reading this guy's book)
Central Asia Institute (I've read this guy's book too)
Charity: water (just came across this today)

Some things I've already donated to:

The reason I'm excited about this: it seems so simple. Giving here in the States seems very hard. All our issues are hella complicated: health care, violence in schools, drugs, immigration, etc. If you want to solve, say, racism, you have to untangle a lot of things, and give to something that really solves the root of an issue. Or, say, gay marriage: you have to hire lobbyists and register voters and stuff, and it takes a lot lot lot of time and money. It feels like going from an 80% solved/efficient/modern society to a 100% one.

But in (Nepal/Vietnam/Pakistan/etc): You donate $20k, they build a school. And everyone needs schools. Maybe their teachers don't have the exact optimal teaching strategy or whatever, but they used to have zero teachers, now they have one teacher. Or you donate $5k (or whatever), they build a well. It's the 0% to 80% solution.

So why donate here at all? Yes, there are problems here. And your school in Nepal might not solve the Nepalese students' problems. But if you donate to a leadership development program for disadvantaged youths in Seattle, you might not solve the Seattle students' problems either! And I'd wager that the Nepalese school has a higher chance of making more of a difference in the lives of those it affects.

Counterpoint: donating locally helps you as well as the donation recipients; it gets you involved in your community.
Counter-counterpoint: donating globally helps you too. Plus, you can give your time locally, but you can't really give your time globally. At least not effectively. I can teach people math here. In a poor Cambodian village where everyone speaks Cambodian and there's no clean water, I could maybe haul bricks to help build a well, but I'm not going to be very good at that, and I'll probably be more of a burden to the people I'm "helping."

So maybe there's my strategy: if I'm going to volunteer time, I'll do it locally, where I'm in my depth and can contribute meaningfully; if I'm going to donate money, I'll do it globally, where it goes farther.

Y'know. Unless I'm missing something. Feel free to call that out.

No comments: