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Measurable Donations
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by Adrian Muller

Generally speaking, information about the impact of our charity money -- specifically who that money ends up helping -- almost always remains opaque to us. Donors around the world are increasingly demanding proof of outcomes, a phenomenon referred in the non-profit world as the “accountability crisis,” and these days accountability is a requisite that every non-profit organization must meet if it aspires to attract funding. An interesting way to approach this issue is by establishing direct links between donors and recipients, so that individuals can track their contributions.

Child sponsorship has been using this model for some time now, linking a child in the developing world to a sponsor in the Global North. Now, Family-to-Family (F-2-F), an American non-profit hunger relief program, is following a similar model, but at the family level. Instead of linking individual donors with a specific recipient, F-2-F connects wealthy and middle-class families to less privileged families.

Currently F-2-F is limiting its services to American families as they remind us that despite being one of the world’s wealthiest countries, there are 36 million people in the U.S. living below the poverty level. The program focuses in helping profoundly poor and hungry rural American families by creating a bridge between suburban communities with enough to share and some of the country’s most impoverished areas.

There are two options to sponsor a family:

Direct monthly food shipments: the sponsoring family shops and packages shipments of non-perishable foods and other basic goods, such as winter gloves, shampoo, etc.
Local grocery purchase: the sponsoring family sends F-2-F a gift certificate or check in the amount of $35 USD and the organization uses it to buy the groceries.

In each location, a member of the community (e.g. outreach worker) helps F-2-F by providing local insights (with which families need the most help), developing menus and receiving packages. In the future, partnerships with companies from the shipping and food sector could be establish to reduce costs associated with distribution and food sourcing.

Like the peer-to-peer micro credit website Kiva, F-2-F offers a transparent model for donating money to charity. The service fosters long-term donor commitments be giving them the assurance that their money is being put to good use, and by facilitating personal relationships between donor and recipient that mutually enhance the value of the experience and inherently create the inclination for the donor to remain involved with and supportive of the chosen recipient.

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Transparency is one of the dark clouds surrounding NGOs worlwide performance. Each day more and more new NGOs are created and althogh they constitue an important support for poor communities,"transparency" is one of the key issues to be further discussed.

In recent months, a corruption network was detected operating in spanish Intervida NGO, which promoted the strategy of adpoting a child in a third world country. The money raised was destinated for the creation of new enterprises and private institutions, not for the support of child poverty.

NGOs reputation where severely damaged, an old discussion is again in the spotlight, "how can we assure to people that make a contribution, that their money will be used in a proper way? Mechanisms for tracking contributions can ease the reliability, but is that enough ?

Good article, raises questions for further discussion...

Posted by: Enrique Jones on 19 Jun 07

This seems like a good idea, although I would question the eco-friendliness of the the first option, shipping non-perishable goods to a family in need. Most people in the US are within easy distance of a supermarket, so why would someone ship heavy, presumably canned or dry goods that have probably already come a long distance to the first store?

Posted by: Nerissa on 19 Jun 07



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