Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Charity Doesn't Solve Anything. Say What?

Post by Lis Ann Morehart

While Bill Gates and Warren Buffet travel the globe to encourage billionaires worldwide to pledge half their wealth to charitable causes, the world's wealthiest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico, has opened up about his own views on philanthropy. In recent public appearances, Mr. Slim has been quoted as saying, "the only way to fight poverty is with employment. Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don't solve anything. To give 50%, 40%, that does nothing. There is a saying that we should leave a better country to our children. But it's more important to leave better children to our country."

While I do believe that creating jobs for poverty-stricken adults around the globe can substantially help improve the quality of life of their families and communities, I have to disagree with Mr. Slim's argument that charity doesn't solve anything. Just the sound of those words strung together makes my heart skip a beat.

How do you accurately measure the impact of a charity? I don't know that even the best not-for-profit experts have cracked that code yet. A common approach is to take a look at a charity's annual budget, but what does that really tell us? Is a charity that only raised $173,000 in 2009 worth exactly $173,000 to its community? If it only employs three people, should it close up shop unless it can find a way to employ more people?

Not all charities are specifically targeted at those individuals living in poverty. Did you know that the amount of deaths as a result of breast cancer have decreased 5.2% per year since 1990? This progress is due to earlier detection, a direct result of increased breast cancer awareness, and improved treatments that would not have been possible without breast cancer research. Did you also know that thanks to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of rhinos in Africa have increased by 7,435 in a decade? Or that hundreds of girls are being pulled out of sex trafficking every day?

Why diminish the relevance and impact of these charities just because they are not specifically focused on creating jobs?

Charities create jobs, too. After all, who do you think is running the show back there? It's not the Wizard of Oz. Charities provide many important jobs for individuals choosing to work in the not-for-profit sector. Here in the United States, those jobs make up almost 10% of the national workforce!

Of course, many of these charities are also busy training and equipping low-income people to enter the work force and pursue long-term employment opportunities by offering free employment workshops and hosting job fairs. These same charities provide free basic medical care, as well as counseling for those who have become addicted to drugs and alcohol or suffer from mental illnesses.

Charity isn't just about the end result. For the donor, it's also about the act of giving. Countless people around the world engage in charitable activities regularly because they want to play a role in making the world a better place. Some people give their time. Others give money. In the case of billionaires, you have to admit that one billionaire can make a much greater impact by writing one check than by donating 100 hours to a soup kitchen each year. Others of us may be able to flip a coin as to which would be of greater value to our community...the change in our pockets or the time on our hands. Personally speaking, I have done a great deal of volunteer work ranging from working with the homeless and helping the elderly, to being an ambassador for children. I've been on the flip side, as well, as the beneficiary of charity during my father's battle with cancer. So, I can tell you with confidence from personal experience that charity changes lives....for both the givers and the receivers.

Still think that charity doesn't solve anything? Take the opportunity to become involved in some form of charitable activity and discover for yourself just how you can impact the lives of others less fortunate than yourself. If you want to volunteer, check out Volunteer Match. If you want to donate funds, find a charity that inspires you on Guide Star or Charity Navigator. Who knows... maybe you'll be left changed by the experience, too.

About the Author: Lis Ann Morehart is an intern for Glamour Gone Good, dedicated to teaching women and girls how to glam up their inner beauty, and mobilizing the fashion and beauty industry to use their resources to make the world a better place.

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