In the midst of global tragedies, many charitable people decide to send old junk or underused resources to foreigners in need. Here are five reasons why one should donate money, not stuff if one wants to solve global hunger.
- “Junk” is a logistical nightmare for volunteers. The people brave enough to enter disaster sites must provide emergency care to people in immediate need. They lack the necessary time to sort, transport and store cheap diapers or old sweaters sent in by well-meaning folks. Yahoo Finance reports an incident where, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a benefactor sent thousands of pounds of cheese to New Orleans. The trouble was that no working refrigerator could hold such a gift. Lots of material goods appeal to a customer’s wants… they’re not so effective in situations of dire need.
- Material donations can wreck a nation’s economy. Kathleen Tierney, the director of a Natural Hazards Center in Colorado, notes how economic problems occur in recovering nations when supply outstrips demand. “If you want to see economic recovery, you don’t want to send so many supplies that you create a situation where people can’t survive in a business sense,” said Tierney. Ultimately, the best use of aid is to help a country until they can take care of themselves. It’s difficult to make one’s living selling T-shirts if a global superpower dropped off millions of shirts for one’s potential customers to wear for free.
- Local groups know what resources they need. The Central Texas Food Bank, the largest provider of emergency food distributions in the country, was shut down by flooding during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. The group’s president, Derrick Chubbs, supports monetary donations instead of material aid. He reasons that relief groups in a disaster area know exactly what they need for certain situations. They only lack the funds to acquire the most helpful tools for the job. The chance to clean one’s house and accomplish a moral good is tempting for a lot of do-gooders. But one can achieve similar results by selling old junk to a consignment store (like Goodwill or Half-Priced Books) and donating the proceeds to a respected charity. With one additional step in giving aid, the effectiveness of a donation multiplies.
- “Stuff” is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The media focuses on the immediate aftermath of a tragedy but often loses interest by the time victims have to return to their homes. Groups like the Salvation Army understand that maintaining emergency shelters and rebuilding destroyed sites takes a long time. This is why nonprofits want people to donate money, not stuff. Not only do charities know what to spend cash on, but they know how to divide that cash to ensure a complete job. Such relief groups cannot fix a community with a stuffed animal sent from across the country.
- It’s more effective to call/email your representative. So how can someone help if they feel they lack the money to keep themselves afloat? One free solution would be to contact your representative and ask that your government contribute aid to a country or region in need. The Center for Global Development reports that the U.S. donates only 1 percent of its budget towards International Affairs, which includes disaster relief. Not only can this amount be increased through advocacy, but concerned citizens can ask their representatives to support revenue-neutral bills to solve global problems. Anyone interested in this surprisingly easy path to advocacy should explore The Borgen Project’s page on calling Congress.
– Nick Edinger