Spotlight on charitable giving

01.08.05

One of the consequences of the Asian Tsuanami disaster has been the somewhat unexpected spotlight that the media has placed on charitable giving – in Canada and around the world. The Globe and Mail reports that 37% of Canadians have contributed in some shape or form to the relief efforts. Between comparing contributions of various governments and highlighting individual, corporate and even celebrity giving, there have been a number of stories analysing how the money is being used and rating the politics of NGOs, the world seems to be paying more attention to the relief effort than to the disaster itself.

I try not to let my professional life intrude on my blog too much, but I feel the need to make an exception, because this situation is exceptional in a lot of ways. For those of us who work in the nonprofit sector, it’s a bit like suddenly being placed under a microscope. Sure, our clients are raising money for worthy causes all the time… but suddenly, here’s one that’s important. It’s enough to turn any of us into a cynic – especially me, who was cynical to begin with.

But in a strange way, it has had the opposite effect on most of the people I work with. Everyone is working longer hours, making the extra effort, trying to do whatever we can to pitch in and help out. It’s one of those times when we’re reminded that the work we do isn’t just about production schedules and copy and artwork deadlines, but about real people and real emergencies. Yes, we’re aware of that every day, but sometimes we lose sight of the forest amidst the day-to-day stress of taking care of the trees.

For those of us who want to pitch in and contribute, the possibilities seem endless. The Globe and Mail’s listing contains 34 different charities that are collecting funds.

I ultimately decided to donate through Federation CJA, who is collecting donations locally to be distributed through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Yes, I know that at times like this it’s probably better to put politics aside. But unfortunately, that’s a bit of a pipe dream, and the initial rejection of Israeli aid by Sri Lanka, as well as the Arab world’s inevitable blaming of the Joooooos for the disaster itself only serves to remind us of the world’s pettiness. So I figure that when the dust settles and someone thinks to ask what North American Jews contributed, that my donation will be counted this way.

Yes, in a perfect world, everyone would rush to the aid of everyone else without regard for religion, race or politics. But we live in a very imperfect world. So maybe my solution to the problem of how to help is an imperfect one. But that’s something I can live with.

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