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Friday, December 6, 2013

Philanthropy for Touchy-Feely Soft-Hearted Romantics

Here we are again, the holiday giving season. Last year I wrote a little post about how to make sure your charitable gifts turn into positive action: Philanthropy for Cold-Hearted Hard-Nosed Realists. Its message is simple - give money, not stuff, and give it to organizations that will use your money efficiently. Although it has been by far my most popular post ever, it seems that one single blog post isn't quite enough to end poverty and bring about world peace. Imagine that. So here's another one.

Let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that you're not actually a Cold-Hearted Hard-Nosed Realist like myself. Maybe all this talk about research and efficiency feels distant and bureaucratic to you, the complete opposite of the warm feelings of generosity and solidarity with your fellow man that you get when you bring food to the food bank or toys to the orphanage. Maybe your gift isn't "optimal" but it feels good. Writing a check is so impersonal - you want something hands-on! I get it, I really do. And while I'm tempted to get on a soapbox and say that philanthropy is supposed to be about the people being helped, not the helper, I'll cut you some slack here. We all like to feel that we are making a difference.

Fortunately, you hands-on, personal-experience-givers are in luck, because there is actually one donation-in-kind that even Cold-Hearted Hard-Nosed Realists can heartily approve of, because it's a gift that's always desperately needed and no amount of money can buy. If you don't want to give money, GIVE BLOOD. Sit in the chair, grit your teeth through the needle, and give the gift of your own life force. There's nothing more personal and hands-on than that. And as for the effects, while donated money may sometimes go to practical, boring (but essential!) things like buying a charity's copy paper or paying its electricity bill, your blood donation goes to one thing and one thing only: saving another human being's life. Up to three lives, in fact, from a single blood donation. Check this out:


I know, not everyone can donate blood. Us globetrotters are particularly likely to fall afoul of eligibility requirements - I've been hanging around near malaria too much lately, so the Red Cross would much prefer that I open my checkbook than my vein. All the more reason for those who can donate to actually do it! So get out there, eligible donors, and start saving lives. If that doesn't fill all your desire to feel like you've made a meaningful positive contribution to mankind, I don't know what else will. Plus - free cookies!

And now, because I'm pretty sure this is actually why that last post got so many hits, here's another adorable kitten video:

6 comments:

  1. yep, I tried to donate blood and found out I’m a dirty individual. I have to wait another couple of years and stay away from malaria proned locations.

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    1. The American Red Cross will never take my blood again because I've spent more than 5 years in Europe since 1980. Mad cow disease you know. The quality of the blood supply is important and all, but that does seem a tiny bit overcautious to me. Ireland will be happy to take my blood starting next summer as long as I stay away from malarial places in the interim.

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  2. Yeah, giving blood overseas is the consolation prize for expat Americans. Usually foreign countries aren't as strict with their donation requirements. They let me give blood in Nigeria without a fuss.

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  3. Other countries have to be more lenient on travel requirements or they'd never have any blood supplies. The U.S. can only get away with it because so many Americans never even leave the country. I'm impressed you donated in Nigeria though. I'd never have let anyone put a needle in me in Guinea besides the embassy nurses, no way, no how. I know Nigeria is on a different development level, but I still don't know if I'd be willing.

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  4. Someone in my Washington, DC, office last week suggested that we have a canned food drive for a disaster-affected community in Asia. Next time I will point them to your blog entry!

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    1. Yeah! Changing behavior one person at a time. Here's a great article Slate ran last month with more on why cash is best: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2013/11/how_to_help_typhoon_haiyan_survivors_in_the_philippines_the_only_donation.htm

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