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July 09, 2007

where should the money collected at a U2charist go?

U2 requires that ALL money collected at a service that uses their music goes to an organization furthering the Millennium Development Goals. Within that requirement, it's up to you to decide what organization(s) should get the money you collect. Here are some considerations that I personally use in recommending organizations:

The ONE campaign does not collect money from private donors ("We don't want your money; we want your voice"). Don't try to send them a check.

And in any case, I think that the spirit of U2's and the Universal Music Group's very generous permission to use their music in U2charists asks us to give money collected to an organization that actually does relief and development work in places outside the U.S. Only two percent of Americans' charitable giving goes outside the U.S., and those funds could be put to excellent use by organizations that DO engage in well-placed relief and development work elsewhere. Not all organizations that say they want to advance the Millennium Development Goals do that relief and development work, and some that do some work elsewhere still spend most of their money paying Americans to do things in America. ASK how much of their budget goes to relief and development among those in extreme poverty and how much goes to organizational overhead and salaries of staff already living quite well before you write that check.

Also, not all aid is helpful to people in extreme poverty. Some of my African friends talk about "the white hurricane" -- a destructive force of well-meaning but clueless people who sweep into an area, throw lots of money and effort into things that aren't really needed or may even actively disrupt community life, and then leave feeling much better about themselves, and Africans worse off than before. Don't give to "white hurricanes" if you can help it; before you designate an aid/development organization to benefit from a U2charist, do some research to see what the track record of an aid/development organization is with respect to forming real partnerships with local people and orgzanizations and directing funds to projects that increase people's abilities to profit from their own work rather than fostering cycles of dependence or make little difference in the quality of life for the community.

Here are some organizations that I have looked into and I think are good ones to consider for a U2charist collection:

  • Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Don't be put off by the name if you're not Episcopalian or even religious; ERD helps people absolutely without respect to their religious feelings and activities or lack thereof, and I am deeply impressed with ERD's record of cooperating with people local to the area where they work, funding microlending, microbusiness and other forms of development that help people to become self-reliant, and maximizing the amount of their budget that goes directly to aid and development rather than to overhead. With ERD, 92 cents of every dollar donated go to aid and development programs, and you can view their tax documents here in an admirable example of transparency. I recommend giving to "area of greatest need" rather than restricting gifts to one area, but if you feel more comfortable with a restricted gift, you can specify to what part of the world and/or project money goes, and ERD's website even tells you which funds further which Millennium Development Goals.
  • Oxfam -- an international organization with affiliates in many countries.
  • Five Talents -- an organization founded by conservative Christians that does outstanding work "empowering the poor by promoting innovative savings and microcredit programs, business training, and spiritual development."
  • Heifer International -- which provides animals and equipment to help communities sustain themselves with their own work, and that (like some of ERD's programs) gauges gifts in concrete terms -- one rabbit, a "Noah's ark" of useful animals, a bee hive, or a cow or share of one, for example -- that can be particularly helpful for children's groups to understand what their efforts are doing.

If you'd like to suggest another aid/development organization for this list, please email me information and I'll be happy to consider it.

July 9, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink

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