Two Kinds of Global Giving

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As the year comes to a close Linda and I are thinking a lot about our giving priorities. Giving to organizations that work in the developing world has always been important to us for two reasons. First, the needs are immense. Second, we know that that dollars we donate go a very long way.

This year in particular, I have noticed an unusually large number of “urgent” and “emergency” requests from international nonprofit organizations due to natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes and draught) and human tragedy (e.g., armed conflict and refugee crisis). With all the urgent needs globally, how does one think about charitable giving?

Here are some things I try to keep in mind:

  1. In any given year our portfolio of giving is an expression of how our values line up with our understanding of the needs in the world, locally and globally.
  2. Rescue and relief organizations respond to crisis at a specific moment in time. They aim to save lives and alleviate very immediate suffering.
  3. In contrast, development organizations build the long-term capacity of people and communities to lift themselves out of poverty and become more resilient.
  4. Both of these efforts matter. But the goals and strategies are very different and as a donor, it’s important to make an intentional choice about where you invest.

This year, our personal choice is to balance our international giving across both relief and development-focused organizations. We’ll donate to large organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) which delivers lifesaving relief to those fleeing conflict and natural disasters. We’ll also maintain our commitment to small, scrappy innovators like Reading Village that engage in long-term strategies for sustainable results.

There’s no correct choice. But choosing is important and merits some deliberate reflection before the year is over. I would encourage each of you to give some thought to the impact you want to make this year. The need is immense, but the opportunity to make a connection and a commitment, to invest in a way that reflects our values as well as changes lives – that’s an opportunity I never want to miss.

– Larry Dressler

Larry Dressler is a founding board member for Reading Village. He also serves as a consultant to private foundations that fund global community development efforts.

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