Archive for the 'Donations' Category

Money Doesn’t Build A School

This isn’t the story of how donations built a school. Donations don’t build school. Watch the video to see what I mean.


We Speak For Ourselves

When it comes to international aid and development, we are all biased. It doesn’t matter if you’re a donor reading pamphlets, a celebrity or YouTuber endorsing your favorite NGO, a journalist interviewing villagers, an academic outside of the ivory tower, an experienced aid professional talking about “good aid”, or even a free agent trying to be a bridge-maker.

There is nothing nefarious about this fact. We as human beings, while capable of untold capacities for empathy, will never have a complete verstehen and fully imagine the complexity of others. This is important because the arbiters of what is and is not “good aid” and what does and does not “harm the poor” must be the ones whom international aid is meant to serve.

This latest video, which among other things shows a project I did in collaboration with Save the Children, is my attempt to bring the poor one step closer to being able to speak for themselves. This is by no means the pinnacle of the kind of global voice I think the poorest of the poor should have. Rather, I see this as merely Step 4 out of a 5 Step Program.

This video also connects with a lot of things I’ve talked about on this blog – from mistrust of NGOs in Bangladesh, to raising overhead separately, to Islamic POVs on aid (which partly influences why many Bangladeshis talk about overhead), to the need for the poor to be more digitally and globally connected, to explaining the significance of the woman (near the end of the video) blessing the donors.

If you’re new to my work then I should point out this isn’t about raising as much money as possible. If you want to donate, I strongly suggest you consider donating to Save the Children instead of me. My goal has always been just to change the conversation on global poverty – that means less guilt, pushing for diversity, and letting the poor speak for themselves.

3 Reasons Charities Need to Drop the Guilt

A Charity Guilt-Ad Currently Airing in Canada

It’s 2011 and we still live in a world where many charities think that the best way to raise funds to help those in need is by using guilt.

This needs to stop and here are three reasons why:

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The Value of Overhead from Public Donations

Earlier today, I booked my ticket back to Bangladesh. It’s just for a month and it’s just for one or two small projects. But, the familiar butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling has returned as a million worries come into play.

I don’t have enough money to rent my own place, so where will I stay? Will I have enough money to pay for internet and stay connected with you guys? What about if I get sick? How will I pay for unexpected costs?

It’s times like this that I want to play Devil’s Advocate a bit and explain why some of the biggest and best charities in the world take their overhead and administration costs from donations from the public.

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How I Use Social Media & My Ethnicity to Help the Poor

Young Mother Stands with Her Child after Cyclone Aila Hit

Let me introduce you to this young mother I met in Galachipa, Bangladesh. This photo was taken just after Cyclone Aila – you can see that part of her house’s wall is missing. Trust me, I don’t bring this up as a downer.

After I met her, I explained to her what I was doing: that I’m not a charity official or employee – I’m just a guy. And, with my camera and camcorder, she could send a message to all my friends around the world.

I asked her: what does she want people outside of Bangladesh to know? What single message would be the most important to send? After I heard what she had to say, I knew I could never release the message.

She made a message with the names of specific individuals and groups who she felt were mishandling people’s donations. She urged people not to donate through these methods – because it would never reach her.

This is not an uncommon occurrence. And I mention this because of a blog post written by a friend and aid worker whom I have a great deal of respect for.

While I agree with much of what he said, this one passage sticks out the most:

I want to just remind folks of the risks of observer bias- that being that when you rock up to Village X with a notepad, or a camera, your very presence affects the answers that will be given. Community members may lack resources, and even education, but they’re not stupid. When a donor representative like myself or Shawn asks them a question, they will always give the answer that makes it most likely that they will receive more funds. If they turn around and complain about the quality of aid, they know there’s a risk that the donors in question may write off the village as a failed project and move on. Big smiles and thank-yous are far more likely to make a donor feel good and give more- and they know this.

I mention this because, for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Click the jump to find out why.

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Working For Free Only Works for a While

I just logged into my Google AdSense account to see I’ll be earning a whopping 3 cents today. This is usually the norm for the income I generate.

In fact, features and traffic surges included, since starting this project I’ve earned well under $2 a day. To put it simply: Technically, I am just as poor (if not poorer) than the people I help.

OMG I'm rich!.... okay maybe not.

With that in mind, I thought now would be a good time to talk about what role I feel ads through my YouTube partnership play in this project and how I hope it will fit into the big picture.

More after the jump…

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Three Strikes I’m Out

Earlier this morning I was having a frank conversation with a friend of mine who works at an international charity that I respect a lot. He was explaining why it’s been nearly impossible for them to team up with me.

Basically, I have three strikes against me:

  1. I’m asking to give restricted donations: that is donations which I can track so that I can show you guys what exactly you funded.
  2. I’m asking for no cut be taken for overhead: that is I’m insisting that the donations I give them not be used for their marketing campaigns, administrative overhead, etc.,.
  3. I’m not fully data sharing: that is I’m keeping your personal data that PayPal provides (like your address) private from them so they can’t use this data to solicit you over phone, email, and/or snail mail for more donations.

So, let me throw this out there to whoever is reading this: am I doing it wrong?

Are these three issues something I should change my stance on in order to make myself more appealing to charities? Or is the fact that I stick to these things the very reason you guys support my approach?

Also, as full disclosure, I do share full donation info with friends who help and support my work (like John Green) – but I’ve never sold this info and/or given it over to charities to use for their marketing and soliciting campaigns. Is this wrong?