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Responsible Giving

If you’re going to give to the needy, do it in a way that makes a positive difference.

It’s easy to hand out money to someone on the street, but think about what you’re doing!

Many of those living on the streets have other places to stay, but choose to remain on the streets in order to pay for and feed their substance use disorder and to earn an easy living.

By handing out cash, you’re often handing out a problem. To the person with a substance dependency, to those walking by who have to deal with antisocial behaviour, to the cleaning teams who often get called out to clean up human waste and mess, to law enforcement and SAPS officials who have their time taken up attending to petty crime and bylaw violations and to the shop owners who have premises on the busy streets of Observatory where those living on the streets tend to congregate.

Similarly, it’s easy to feed people, but sometimes these schemes contribute to the attractiveness of a suburb as a place to get an easy meal every day of the week. If you’re running a feeding scheme or wanting to start one, think about why you’re doing it.

There are already a number of established feeding schemes in the area, Loaves and Fishes, Breaking Bread, New Hope, the Pasta Factory, Youth Solutions Africa as well as some business run feeding schemes.

Some of these existing schemes offer additional services and referrals (to shelters, rehab programmes and other social services). Consider supporting the existing schemes through donations of cash, food items, items of clothing or toiletry items. You can also donate your time and/or your expertise to these organisations.

WHAT DRIVES YOUR NEED TO GIVE? ∗

There is no perfect guide to responsible giving, but please reflect on your giving decisions. Decide what it means to be charitable, this will help you give more responsibly.

Giving from the heart

No one can tell you what makes one cause better than another. Ask yourself what you are most passionate about – be it your religious faith, hunger, the arts, homelessness, animal welfare or cancer research. Then, verify that the organisation you have in mind follows sound accounting and management practices.

Giving to the neediest

Rather than telling you to follow your own passions, traditional charity stresses that suffering people demand urgent attention. It treats relieving that pain and meeting those needs as the highest charitable priority.

Giving mindfully

Making sure you to do the most good you can in terms of macro level well-being, based on verifiable cost effectiveness – i.e. it’s better to give a sum of money to an organisation with a wide impact than to one that spends the money on a limited pool of beneficiaries.

Giving to heal and address injustices

Another way to think about making charitable donations more responsible is to see them as a form of reparation. With economic inequality growing, government spending on public education is declining and cutbacks are taking a toll on social services. Donations can be used to repair crumbling public services – such as supplementing the budgets of schools, crèches and day care centres.

Giving to overcome unjust policies

Donate to groups challenging unjust institutions. Whilst dismantling the structural causes of poverty and discrimination is hard and can take decades or longer, even small policy changes can do more for large numbers of people than the biggest charitable initiatives. Give to advocacy non-profits, community empowerment groups and community organisers.

∗ Taken from “An Ethical Guide to Responsible Giving”, 28/11/2017, the Conversation