But though our heads are starting to temper the way these funds are directed, it's the heart that we target to gain those funds in the first place. And it's the second concept of the movement, altruism, that describes most of our efforts to help thus far. At its core, altruism encapsulates the very essence of humanity; our ability to care for wellbeing of others and the act of putting their interests above our own is an anomaly of survival of the fittest arguably unique to our species. But the very words 'charity' and 'aid' exude connotations of personal sacrifice, and the fact that only 5 of 22 OECD countries give the agreed upon 0.7% of GNI towards Official Developmental Assitance (OECD, 2012), and a 40% drop occurred in private flows to charities from 2007-2008 due to the GFC (World Bank 2009) shows that that sacrifice, especially in the face of adversity, is often deemed too much; the reward of a warm, fuzzy feeling too little to justify the expense.
Brand image is of vital importance to a company's success, and acts of charity have excelled beyond that of maintain ethical practices and adherence to codes and guidelines; they've become a marketing tool. A wide-ranging survey found that 89% of consumers are likely to switch brands similar in price or quality for such a cause (Cone Communications 2014). And strategic charitable initiatives taken by companies, those initiatives in line with their core values, benefit not only the recipients, but also the companies who organise them. Monsanto partners with many governments in the third world to reduce world hunger through programs such as Project Share, which provides farmers in India with education, tools, and their superior genetically modified seed (Monsanto, 2014). This allows farmers to make the vital jump from sustenance to commercial farming, gaining them not only free publicity through press coverage; restoring Monsanto's widely denigrated image of a greedy, "GMO producing (and therefore evil)" corporation, but also creating farmers who will go on to become future customers themselves. This is but one example showing how acts of kindness by businesses often turn out to be wise investments.
How do we make the benefits clearer, in order to get it happening more?
Securing this data will cause change, but it's only part of the answer. The development and emergence of markets due to human development, the concept of customer and recipient loyalty leading to profits, the improvement of brand image and international relationships can't, or aren't even being measured as benefits of giving to this day. Thus, a paradigm shift, along with increased investment, into how we view and study aid is required to get reliable data on the benefits of giving. This data will make giving something businesses and governments can't afford NOT to do.
Making the public aware that giving can be a win-win.
Charities are beginning to realise this too and are opening the eyes of the public to the idea that charity needn't be something that comes at their expense through giving people more interactive, more fun ways of giving. The UNICEF-Tap-App, in partnership with Georgio Armani, is a perfect example of this. The app is helping thousands kick their smart-phone addictions for the wonders of real life by giving them compelling motivation to do so; the donation of a day's worth of water for every 10 minutes users spent off their phone. Smaller organisations, such as the Louis26 Foundation, dedicated to helping cancer patients and their families through tough times, organise parties, get-togethers and sporting events, with all proceeds going to charity, allowing people to enjoy some respite from their daily lives without the guilt of self-indulgence (Louis Segregato 26 Foundation, 2014). MaterHomes runs lotteries with statistically higher chances of winning per dollar spent; satisfying both the innate fascination and desire of a decadent, luxurious life and the more accomplishable, gratifying goal of helping others simultaneously. And microfinance organisations, such as Kiva, are increasingly allowing users the option to withdraw money if they wish to attracting not only altruistic donors, but also those looking for a reliable way to save.
(Click on any of the above to do these - I've personally participated in all of them - and they get the satisfaction of helping others without ever having to go out of my way or hurt myself financially for doing so.)
If people were to realise that charity is a win-win, then people and the governments and businesses which exist to serve them would be more able and willing to help others. Something that all humans are programmed to do, deep inside. If businesses and governments, who control and regulate the entire world's resources finally came to the realisation that the developing world has the most people, and stands to be the largest markets in the future; if they finally saw that they'd secure their prosperity by investing in, rather than holding back their potential, then charity wouldn't just be a great investment, but one they can't afford NOT to do.
If we could expand the scope of global development from the spare change in ones' pocket to the entire bank's own interests, if we could bring the $100trillion world economy to realise that growth need not come from the subjugation of others but rather the advancement of us all... we will finally cure poverty.
This was a longer version of an essay competition entry I wrote for Bill Gates. Have a read of it and tell me what you think! Also let me know any other ways you can benefit yourself by giving to charity (I'll be expanding on this and adding chunks to it over time, and showing more ways of how you can benefit by giving to others - and I'll give you a mention for any idea I add in there!) Also - let me know what you think!
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