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Updated: Jan 9, 2023

Individuals, Organisations and Religious organisations promote the concept of #donating from share of earning. Does that help or hurt the intended beneficiaries?


Many companies have in last few decades become socially conscious and have made donation as an important part of their business strategy. Religions have always voiced zakat, daswandh, daan and many more ways of virtuous sharing. It does provide some satisfaction to the donor and as Ben Carson says, "Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give". But the mode of #charity in decides if we are making poor poorer and dependent or a gainer.

Andreas Widmer, director of entrepreneurship programs at Catholic University believes that "that following the heart to fight poverty is a terrible idea. It pleases you more than it helps anything. To give anything is always a bad idea when you’re trying to fight poverty.”

There are many international brands like Tom shoes, Warby Parker, Roma Boots, KNO Clothing, Soapbox Soaps donate in developing countries of Asia and Africa free products or food. Is it the best approach?


What if the recipients become dependent on free supplies?

How is impacting small time makers, retailers whose customers have free donations?

How do we generalise that all receivers feel dignified in getting free supplies?

What happens when donations don't come, and even small-time makers have perished owing to no demand in market? Do they now get deprived of affordable means?

Is giving a fish charitable or teaching someone to fish?


Giving is not just about donation, it's about making a difference and this we all realised during challenging times of pandemic. I personally came across cases where people preferred going hungry than accepting donations in name of charity and social marketing.

Let me ask another question, how many of us buy blankets, clothes, shoes and make donations to poor in winters? Is there a better way of doing it? Think of artisans, cobblers, Razai maker (quilting artisans) in the locality. Are they not deprived of means to earn and they soon will be ones queuing up for donations. Michael Matheson Miller, director of PovertyCure believes that “Poor people aren’t poor because they lack stuff; they’re poor because they lack the infrastructure to #createwealth.”

Some academic research points to evidence that donations can hurt local businesses. A frequently referred-to 2008 study by Garth Frazer in The Economic Journal concluded that textile donations in Africa significantly contributed to the #decline of the textile industry in sub-Saharan Africa in the period 1981 to 2000.

How about relooking at it: making a cobbler make shoes for poor in a locality and taking care of expenses, or a kantha artisan making quilts for people in her area and we fund her? This would boost local economy and support artisans. But the question still remains how to engage the recipients in process so it's not just for free for them.

Many organisations make claims of donation as their social impact as:

“We know from research that people are most motivated to help when they feel a connection to those whom they’re helping.”–Deborah Small

There is lot of thought that goes in creating and improvising these models of giving. That’s great, because it’s not clear which approaches have the greatest #sustainability and impact. Research have also shown that in some cases these free giving is beneficial too, like mosquito nets, vaccines and other health related preventive products. So, we should be wary of making generalizations. We have a lot to learn about how to maximize impact to promote well-being and combat poverty.

Worth mentioning here is donations for restoration of self belief, as The Naked Hippie, a T-shirt company that sends 100% of its profits to organizations that make microloans in Africa, Asia and South America and only makes a profit if the loans are repaid.

Skilling an Indvidual and giving a loan with mentorship, enhances self-belief as we give out a message, we know you have the capability; all you need is the money to do it.

The intention is not to criticize individuals or organisations that donate and take benefits of it as marketing or for self-satisfaction. It takes a lot of guts to give away money that one earns through profession or business. Are there problems in in way we donate? We all would accept yes there is a scope for improvement.

Next time when we donate let's think how it will impact the self-esteem of receiver and also the artisans or small businesses connected in the value chain of what we donate. And this thought would definitely make us more creative with donations.

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