Assemblany: Towards Democratic Corporations

Monday, June 11, 2007

My Favourite Charities

This blog post is completely subjective - I'm only talking about my current favourite charities and the reasons why I donate to them. I currently donate most to charities that are trying to address global poverty.

I've been a long-time Oxfam supporter, and still donate on a monthly basis. I occasionally donate to the Red Cross and the Leprosy Mission (hoping to help eradicate leprosy). These charities and others like them have achieved a lot, and certainly health (as measured by e.g. infant mortality rates and life expectancies) has improved remarkably the past few decades.

But for some reason there seem to be a lot of exciting new charities with new approaches springing up. (Maybe there have been for years and I just haven't noticed.) Maybe it's my scientific bent, but I like to see statistics as well as read stories in order to know what effects the charity has already had, as well as what needs they're addressing. I already know that the needs are desparate; what I want to know is, will my donation make a difference?

So statistics like the number of people (families) helped out of poverty in the last year are just what I like to see. If the charity also states how much money was spent to achieve this (so some kind of measure of the effectiveness of each dollar), so much the better.

All of the following charities are very transparent and visible about what donations achieve. They also all support entrepreneurs/small businesses (including farmers), which is definitely an approach worth trying.

* Kiva These guys are doing amazing things. Knowing (and choosing) exactly who I'm helping - lending money to - is a powerful and moving experience. The outcomes feel much more tangible - yes, they're small-scale, but every person who is no longer hungry is a victory worth celebrating.
* KickStart The idea of appropriate technology has been around for a long time, but KickStart has really put it into practice. They develop and sell hand-held pumps to farmers in Africa, allowing them to increase their income up to ten-fold. They're also a great example of the kind of statistics I mentioned above, which was a significant factor in my choosing to donate to them.
* TechnoServe They provide business advice / professional development, for example to farmers in Africa to improve the quality of their coffee/pineapples/other export crops ... and thus earn higher prices.

I've seen a few other great ideas on the Web as well, but haven't yet donated to them:

* Acumen Fund They're doing things like building affordable housing and investing in water suppliers.
* Living Goods From microfinance to microfranchise ... Apparently they help "mobile health providers" to make a living selling health products - thus improving people's lives and providing employment at the same time.

More on the new approach to aid later.