Giving Compass’ Take:
• Tom McIntire asks donors to examine their beliefs about who should receive help – homeless families? children? woman? – and how they can better address root causes rather than support suffering individuals.
• How does this advice align, or not, with your existing philanthropic strategies?
• Learn about upstream solutions.
A question I frequently ask others is: what is your baseline? Is it acceptable for any of your neighbors to be hungry or living rough on the streets? In talking about what should be the minimum level of help, we inevitably get to the idea of who should receive assistance. Children, women, families and veterans are among the first to be deemed worthy.
We should ask ourselves how can we choose who eats, who has shelter, who lives and who dies, or is there a better way to ensure that everyone has the basics to live, along with the skills and opportunities needed to thrive? We have at least 12,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County on any given night. What was different about my family’s situation that kept us housed, clothed and fed during our time of need? My family’s and neighbors’ view of community was the houses nearby, the people they knew, the kids who go to school with their kids. Homeowners helping homeowners. People focusing their charitable energy on people like them.
How do we build a commitment to the well-being of all of our neighbors (not just the people like us) into our government systems, our nonprofit and faith organizations, and the personal interactions we have each day? Compassion is easy for someone you see as vulnerable and in some way like you. A challenge is to build empathy for those who are not like you, who may not conform to your standards or in some way appear to have made bad choices.
Every one of us will need help at some point, but our race, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, physical/mental health condition and national origin will all be factors that influence the availability, quality and effectiveness of solutions.
Philanthropy plays a role in solving these problems but individual donor preferences have brought extraordinarily large donations to benefit specific homeless populations. This generosity is inspiring but focuses in on a symptom—families experiencing homelessness, for example—rather than addressing the root causes of racism and generational poverty built into our current economic system. Achieving racial and economic equity in basic needs would mean no racial or other disparities among those who receive aid, and that their demographics match the overall population.
Read the full article about who deserves help by Tom McIntire at Seattle Foundation.
Since you are interested in Impact Philanthropy, have you read these selections from Giving Compass related to impact giving and Impact Philanthropy?
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If you are interested in Global Poverty, please see these relevant events, training, conferences or volunteering opportunities the Giving Compass team recommends.
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