I recently saw this article floating up my Twitter feed; at the time I had been looking into Fair Trade Week to see if there was information I should post as a follow-up to my WeSpeakNews piece.
In the article, guest blogger Anna McKeon, of PEPY in Cambodia, writes that the modern human lives in a world obsessed with “easy,” and that this obsession has invaded all aspects of life – from grocery shopping to traveling. She also writes:
“More often than not there is very little value placed on the advantage of things being difficult. Difficulty tends to represent a lack of clarity, poor communication, or unsatisfactory experience. The very semantics of making something “difficult” for someone have negative, almost malicious connotations.”
Naturally, this means that to keep up with the modern, technology-and-social-media-driven world, companies have made it “easy” to donate items and money or volunteer with nonprofit groups around the world. McKeon, however, explains that she dislikes this practice of making it easy for people to volunteer with or donate to organizations. Why?
Simple, she explains: by making donations or volunteering just a click or text away, it’s too easy to thoughtlessly contribute to causes around the world.
“Few people, when they donate to a charity, ask questions about how the money is being used, let alone thoroughly research the methodology and impact of the organization. Maybe this lack of attention sometimes means that more money is donated, but in my opinion, this is still not a good thing. Not only can it end up supporting ineffective development practice, it also encourages “armchair karma”: texting “donate” to 81155 to buy a mosquito net for someone in Africa to gratify your need that you are “socially conscious” and “giving back”. This isn’t giving back. This is just consuming dressed up slightly differently. You’re buying good feelings to support your good intentions. You’re not necessarily buying impact or any benefits for the people you think you might be helping. Maybe you’re lucky and you hit on an organization which actually is reputable, thoughtful, and delivers nets along with training and other malaria prevention methods. Equally, your text could donate to an organization that dumps 100 nets in a village and leaves. The nets sit there and are never used, or get used for something else altogether, because the local people never asked for them, had other priorities, or were skeptical of products left as charity.”
Is it too easy to donate to organizations and charities? Would making it harder to donate or get involved result in a decrease in volunteering or donations? Is there even a universal answer to the “problem” of being “easy” as presented by McKeon – or, perhaps, is this an issue individual organizations would need to tackle based on their own missions, goals and daily operations?