I wonder if the only reason I give money is to get that warm, fuzzy feeling and feel good about myself. I suppose the only reason we do anything is to make ourselves feel good, whether it’s giving someone something or eating chocolate.
When I turned 18 I got a large amount of money from my (great) Aunt Mary. She died when I was a kid and the money was in trust for my brothers, cousin and I until we turned 18. I felt guilty that I was receiving so much money through an accident of birth when there were people in the world who had nothing. So I started donating to various organizations, not just conservation but also social justice and poverty-lessening ones. I got the habit from my mum. When I was little I would watch her filling in the forms and put the stamps on the envelops (ooh licking stamps!). I was amazed she had so much money, back then I got 20c for pocket money.
One of the first things I did was sponsor a child in a developing country (Colombia. Michael regularly asks me to ask her about the coke). My mum never did this because she said it singles out one person for special treatment. The money goes to the whole community, but after a decade of giving money and writing letters, I do wonder about the other people around her. She has younger brothers and sisters and what do they think when Dary receives a letter and they don’t? Perhaps they have other sponsors, but I’m not sure there are enough sponsors for that. She’s almost eighteen and World Vision still sends me childish cards for her birthday and Christmas which I write in and send on to her. I wonder what she thinks of them and whether it would be better to have the names of her brothers and sisters on them rather than her name. When she turns eighteen I’m guessing I will be asked to move onto another child, but I’m going to say no and just give the organization money when they have appeals. This personalization is a good way to get people who have never given before to start, but these days I agree with my mum and I don’t like the singling-out factor. Other organizations (and World Vision in other areas of its work) write personal stories (with pictures) in their newsletters and website, so you can still find out what your money’s doing, and I prefer that.
These are the organizations I donate to. Feel free to do the same, or give to the equivalent one in your area – give locally! And if you don’t have the money to donate, volunteering time is always welcome.
Michael hates it that I donate to Greenpeace. He thinks they’re trouble makers (his words are a little harsher). He lays into them whenever he’s watching TV and sees their whale-chasing boats during whaling season. I like a bit of trouble-causing.
Australian Conservation Foundation is committed to inspiring people to achieve a healthy environment for all Australians.
Amnesty International promoting and defending human rights.
Medicins Sans Frontieres independent organization for medical-humanitarian aid.
Oxfam Australia working with communities around the world for solutions to poverty and social injustice. They used to be called Community Aid Abroad and were not an arm of a multinational corporation, but they got subsumed :(
World Vision engaging people to eliminate poverty and its causes.
RSPCA Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for all creatures great and small.
Green as a Thistle Vanessa really likes WWF. I used to share her love, but have since changed my tune.
In 2004 Clive Hamilton and Andrew Macintosh from The Australia Institute investigated WWF Australia’s description of itself as an independent, supporter-based and non-party political conservation organization in Taming the Panda: The relationship between WWF Australia and the Howard Government.
A couple of years ago I read Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond (Penguin, 2005). I really enjoy Diamond’s writing and recommend his books. Towards the end of Collapse he talks about WWF’s work with an oil company. I thought this situation sounded a bit too cosy and combined with my reading of Taming the Panda, I stopped supporting WWF Australia. I don’t even wear my Angry Panda shirt anymore.