Philanthopy, Stinky Cheese, and You: Keeping it Local.

2014-03-20 11.34.16

A tornado passes over the house, sending a 60 foot maple tree into the sunroom and leaving an unrecognizable scene. I am not there when it happens but arrive several hours after, in the dark, to a numbing sight. A truck pulls up and a fellow shines a flashlight into our Darkness. He gives us a tarp to cover the roof, asks if we have a place to spend the night, promises us it will look better in the morning, hugs the girl who is crying. The next day we marshal a small army of friends, neighbors, contractors, and passerby in a huge clean-up, and the Red Cross stops by again several times with coffee, sandwiches, and encouragement.

This was twelve years ago but I recall the events with perfect clarity.

Words cannot describe the appreciation I’ve felt to the Red Cross from that day. They are my Go To Charity in response to national and world calamity in recent years. Tsunami in the Pacific? $25 to the Red Cross. Hurricane in New Orleans? $25 to the Red Cross. I believe in the Red Cross. I believe in the work they do.

Until, of course, this week’s news:

It is a scathing report, potentially fatal to an organization that has enjoyed a pristine reputation for efficient service delivery for decades now. Certainly in my case they came through, providing immediate care and comfort to the small disaster of a neighborhood flattened by a twister. That the Red Cross wasn’t quite ready for the complexity and scope of Sandy is something I can accept. The allegations of PR strategy driving decision making and the hubris of claiming victory, waste and fraud are unforgivable.

I am so very disappointed. For Shame.

Where does that leave you and me, who simply wants to invest a bit in non-profits to make the world a better place?

I cannot speak to Disasters. Perhaps this a reminder of what we should already know, that Government is the best and most capable Responder to great Crisis and that we shouldn’t expect even large non-profits to have the capacity to act in place of a robust State response to a massive event. Even Chris Christie took President Obama’s hand in friendship following Sandy. Only the Government can do certain things.

So where, then, should we invest our Philanthropy, the small sums we spend in pursuit of a more perfect world?

I grow less judgmental as I get older. Do your thing, gently, and All the Best.  But I will say this: I won’t eat at Applebee’s. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. And I keep my philanthropy Local.

My Friends, keep All of it Local. Your coffee shops, the tasty brews, hot yoga studios, and artisan stinky cheese. The best stuff is the local stuff.

So also then with your philanthropic investments. Ignore the ASPCA mailer with the droopy kittens and invest in the local shelter, with your dollars and as a volunteer.

Say No to the National or International environmental Cause and give to the Local River Association, and your time as well. Few things are as satisfying as cleaning up a stretch of waterway.

Pick a few Causes you care about, become a volunteer and advocate, and focus your personal philanthropy and $100 gifts locally. Your dollars invested in this way not only go farther and have community impact, but also pay the salaries of your non-profit friends and colleagues, who can enjoy the local Cheddar with you and who make your City and mine a more vibrant and cheerful place to live, love and work.

I hope the Red Cross recovers. They won’t see a dime out of me for the foreseeable future.


About jeremymhatch

If I could, I'd write about nothing but tacos. Alas, I am fundraising and leadership consultant in the arts, focusing on contributed revenue growth for organizations. Send me a compliment or complaint. And the location for the good tacos in your town.
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