June 1, 2012

Good intention is not good enough

Out of nowhere an acquaintance, with whom I didn't keep in touch with for more than 10 years, texted me and told me that she's organizing a fundraising for the children in a garbage disposal slum area and asked me if I could donate. I declined.

Let me explain my refusal.

1. Fund transparency

When I asked to see the proposal, the event's run down, transparency's statement, she told me that she didn't have any.
She said that it was a personal initiative, not under a legal organization. 
Me: "Yes, it doesn't matter if it's personal or organized, how do we know that the money goes where it's supposed to go when there's no report?"
She: "I will explain personally to the donators what we will buy for the children with the money. It's based on trust really. Thank God our donators trust me."
Me: "Do the donators know you personally?
She: "Yes."
Me: "If I may say something, you can post about this event on a website or blog with the run down, fund transparency etc so the donators can see where the money goes to. I will help you spreading the words to my friends. Who knows, you might reach more hands."
She: "No, it's too bothersome. Our project is based on good intention and trust. And like I said, it's a personal thing, not organizational."

Honestly, sometimes good intention is not enough. We have to prepare the next steps, system and strategies. I mean, it's not that I don't trust her or anything but I certainly would like to minimize the risk that the money goes to wrong place. Ok, some people can say,"I donate with good intention. Where the money goes isn't my problem and it's God they have to answer to anyway." Not me though. I won't support good intentioned ignorance who might ends up in corruption. It's like donating clothes through charity boxes. I'm not generalizing all charity boxes, but do you know that some of those clothes ended up getting sold  for high prices somewhere and some children in third world countries are forced into slave labor to sort out the clothes piles. And stuffs that can't be worn will be simply dumped in some rivers. I watched a candid documentary on this a few years ago.

And I think we need to think about the beneficiary in the causes we're supporting. In this case,she needs to think more about the children. If she wants to help more, then it's essential for her to reach more donating hands. With her current system, all she'll reach is her inner circle. What about me and my friends, who might support her cause if she makes the extra effort for transparency.

I'm saying this from my own experience. I used to conduct a fundraising as well. The first few days I could only reach my close friends.. But since I wrote a blog, published the event's run down and donator's name, I got much more donation pouring in. My friends did help with the word spreading, but what made these people I didn't know personally wanted to donate? A student organization from Berlin did donate for my cause as well because they could have a follow up. By my simply creating a blog, people could personally cross check if the money went to the right place.And who benefited from this? The children I wanted to support.

I know I have a skeptic untrusting character. But I'm not the only one, I believe.
I dont' think she would make a good marketing manager :) According to the marketing principals, if you want to sell a product, you have to think about which market segment you're aiming for and prepare the correct strategies to earn their trust.

2. Personal credibility

Ok, maybe this is just me. If Bill Gates asked me to donate for his cause, I would probably do it without doubting what he wanted to do with the money. After all, he didn't need to corrupt my 20 dollars, did he?
As far as I know, this acquaintance of mine is by no mean a financially well off person. Not trying to degrade her or anything. But this information kinda made me double think in wanting to donate. Call me a bad negative thinking person, but I don't trust my money in the hands of people who have the big possibilities to corrupt it based on daily necessities. Let me explain using an extreme case.
 If I want to give out 100 USD for a certain beggar, I won't give the money to his beggar neighbor. Not that this neighbor is a bad person, but there's a big possibility that he desperately needs the money for his kid's food.
In a twisted way, this is called Branding. I used to attend a lecture about product branding. I learned that a credible person is very important to the image of a certain product, which is why many adv companies use positive public figures to promote their products. Even after a product's negative image, it's very important for the public to associate the product with a credible figure in the re-branding effort.

Seriously, I never mean to judge a person by his/her financial background.. But in this case, maybe I'm not as egalitarian as I thought I was, maybe it's the habit of my job that forces me to think about financial profit etc, but the blatant truth is she is not credible enough.

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