Consumerism works because the customer both pays for the service and benefits from it. If the service is lacking, the customer stops paying. If the service is great, the customer comes back and tells their friends.
But, what if the customer making the purchase isn’t the one who stands to gain from the transaction?
This is the modern day charity sector. Charities treat donors like customers and aid recipients get treated like products. A charity may give a donor an amazing experience by putting their name on a school building in Kenya. And yet, how satisfied are the people getting the school?
You may think “well, what do they have to complain about…they’re getting a school!” This thinking is simple-minded and correcting it is the antidote to ineffective poverty alleviation.
Consider Oprah Winfrey’s school in South Africa which was racked by a sexual molestation scandal in 2007 where 15 girls were abused by one of the school’s matrons. I’m sad to say, as someone who has built a girl’s school, this is shockingly common and rarely reported. It’s something we had to be very careful to prevent when building Girl’s Shine Academy in Malawi. And the only reason Oprah’s school was exposed was because it was so high profile.
Next, consider how the Red Cross obliterated half a billion dollars after the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. Their marketing machine and celebrity partnerships allowed donors all across America to feel good about “doing something” when tragedy struck our Caribbean neighbors. But, despite many donors feeling good about their financial gift, the results of their donations remain an embarrassing mystery. After personally going down to Haiti when Hurricane Matthew hit them in 2016, I can tell you that many Haitians believe that the irresponsibility of large NGO’s directly led to their economy being decimated.
These are the real life consequences of the unholy alliance the charity sector has formed with consumerism: ignorant donors feeling good about a financial transaction while aid recipients are left underserved. And a lot of charities act as if they prefer it that way.
Keeping donors in the dark while operating with little oversight are the means by which many charities survive. If potential donors were to wise up to the lack of results, the organization would be forced to either start performing or shut down. Or, if they’re big enough, they’ll take the Red Cross’ approach and hire someone to fix their brand. But it’s much more convenient for everyone (except for the aid recipients in desperate need, of course) if we don’t question the system.
Scandals and underperformance won’t stop charities from over-catering to their donors. Paradoxically, the way to reform charities is to speak the only language they understand: money. If donors start caring about results (and stop caring about their name on a building) then aid recipients might actually get the proper urgent help that they so desperately need.
I would like to encourage you to visit donorsee.com where you will find the future of charity. DonorSee is a results-oriented platform where donors get to see their money used to change real lives in meaningful ways (with raw video updates). We have structured the platform so that effective aid is rewarded with exposure to more potential donors (like yourself).
If you would like to further support DonorSee’s mission to usher in the future of charity, I would encourage you to sign up for our monthly giving program (on the front page) where you can give as little as $10/month. This small amount will help those in need, all around the world, effectively.
Charity & Consumerism were never meant for each other. When the two are matched up, they give priority to the feelings of the donor over the effectiveness of the charity. It’s time for a divorce. And now, it’s time for a new alliance: Charity & Results.