You may have noticed an influx of holiday drives and year-end appeals by almost every nonprofit imaginable. In this season of giving and gratitude, it’s easy to be confused with whom to support, but also just as easy to forget whom we are supporting.
Just last week a friend of mine was contemplating the efficacy of canned food drives. She was surprised to notice how specific the donations need to be and questioned the overall concept of these items’ healthiness. “There’s a list for the food drive and it’s very particular. Everything is to be low sodium, whole grains and healthy snacks,” she told me.
I explained that specifications help regulate the quality of items donated. Often times, volunteers have to sort through hundreds of canned “goods” that may be expired, are throwaways because the donor doesn’t like the item and are sometimes a reflection of what the donor believes the “needy” should be consuming.
With all of these variables at play, more time and energy is spent during this process than necessary and could be better allocated towards other tasks if donors were more educated on what is actually needed or asked for by organizations.
I told her, “People end up donating irrelevant items. Or pushing their standards on the people who receive the food.”
She responded with an alarming, but expected comment, “Well we see it as if, I’m going out to buy you food with my earned money, you shouldn’t be picky about it.”
“…I’m going out to buy you food with my earned money, you shouldn’t be picky about it.”
Whether you are a donor of a food item, an unwrapped toy, money, or any other asset, you surely understand the benefit of your donation towards your cause. But when we start to set expectations towards who should be receiving the donation, or how it needs to be used, could the attached ownership be doing more harm than good? Ultimately, can we trust an organization enough to know how best to serve the community with a donation?
“But isn’t that the problem then? That you’re setting these expectations because you still are attaching ownership over the thing that you’re donating?” I asked. “You want to help, but you want to control the outcome.”
But when we start to set expectations towards who should be receiving the donation, or how it needs to be used, could the attached ownership be doing more harm than good? Ultimately, can we trust an organization enough to know how best to serve the community with a donation?
Rest assured, this friend of mine is well educated on working with organizations and actually studied public health, so her contemplation was more rooted on the actual items deemed as good for donation in this instance. But knowing me, she anticipated that I would challenge her way of thinking, if only for a little bit.
“I’ll say this though, what they [organizations] ask for, they really need. You know half the time people even donate expired stuff. The public wants to do good by donating, but they’re donating food that’s gone bad.”
This question led us to delve deeper into another topic altogether. I wondered, does gratefulness have any relation to the quality of service? Beyond donating to a food bank, I asked, “Should we be grateful merely because someone does something for us? How do we measure return on investment for an act of service versus how grateful the receiving end should be?”
If we removed our ego from the situation and considered only the outcome that benefits the receiver most, then are we successful in helping another individual? Additionally, if the individual never thanks us for the help, do we have any right to feel bitter or resentful for lack of this expected expression? When does help, or a donation, become a truly selfless act?
After saying this out loud, my friend shared some frustration in addressing issues for other loved ones to no success of fixing the root of the problems. There is no one answer and no right or wrong way to help, whether we have a personal attachment to those we help, or whether we have certain standards for the type of help we choose to implement. As a donor of goods, assets, resources, skills and time, whether to support a nonprofit or help a friend in need, know that your efforts speak to your character and ability to lend a hand when it is needed.
WHAT WE CAN BE BETTER ABOUT is becoming informed donors and learning how to trust those who operate nonprofits. There will be more on that, including how to find the right cause to support, coming soon to Darling Magazine online by yours truly, and as always, if you reach out, am happy to aid in finding the perfect fit…
Photos: J. Crew