Have you ever wondered where your money goes after making a donation? In this series of blogs, GPP co-founder Simon Moss explores how you can understand where it goes, why, and how you can help it go further.
My family doesn’t look forward to Christmas like they used to. Over the last two years, I’ve bought them pigs, goats and chickens, instead of more ‘normal’ presents like socks, jocks and books. Chances are, I’ll do it again this year – but I won’t commit to that here, lest the surprise is spoiled by them reading this blog.
Led by campaigns like Oxfam’s Unwrapped and TEAR’s Best Gift Catalogue Ever, there’s been an explosion in Christmas gift options for the discerning supporter of action to end extreme poverty. But, I’ve been left wondering – what would happen if we all bought pigs, and no one bought any chickens.
The logical conclusion would be that it would smell really bad in the communities that got the pigs, that chicken prices would rise, and pork prices would fall.
The reality is thankfully different. It turns out that it doesn’t really matter which animal or piece of equipment we buy. Charities don’t let us choose how many pigs should be given in rural Cambodia, nor do they let us choose how many wells will be dug in Mozambique.
Say a community determines that 100 goats, a new school building and a salary for three nurses are important investments. All up, they might cost $25,000. The charity commits to raising that amount to provide the community with those things – which the community in turn sees as a great way to build up their own assets through the goats, educate their kids to lead better lives through the school, and keep everyone healthy through the nurses.
Over in our suburban shopping centre, we sift through cards, catalogues and posters, looking for the gift that will work for us. Dad would love the well – he’s always building things. My kid brother can have a goat, for obvious reasons, and my girlfriend can have a nurse’s salary. Thousands of people around the country think through the same decisions, and at the end of the day, no matter what combinations of things are bought as gifts, the $25,000 will go to things that the community wants and needs.
For us, giving gifts like these is a great way to be connected to people in poverty. We get a tangible sense of what our money can achieve, and a good chance to give a gift that has real meaning and resonance for the person we’re buying for. For the world’s poor, gifts like these provide the resources they need, whilst still enabling them to keep control over their own development.
To see how you can give a gift that keeps giving, head to your local Oxfam store from November onwards, or head to your favourite agency’s website to see their catalogue.