Shouldn’t we just send money to fix the world?
“Why do we waste all that time and effort sending volunteers when we could just send money instead?”
“Those people need the jobs and when volunteers go to help out they are stealing the work!”
“Volunteers don’t know what they are doing anyways!”
There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t have this conversation with someone.
The problem with critics is sometimes they are right. It is true that volunteers sometimes take on jobs that they cannot do as well as a local person. It is true that when people just send money it is used to create jobs that the wages are used again and again in the communities. This supports a lot more people over time than one volunteer.
So are the critics right?
- Should we spend that $3000 on the expenses of a volunteer?
- Or is it better to just send money over to an agency to do $3000 worth of work?
- Or better yet, should we find a way to get that $3000 directly to the person on the ground!
The question is often asked, and I have a simple response to the people who ask, “If you think it is best to just send money to people, write me a cheque!“
I am still waiting for the person who asks this question to just give me the money.
Mostly I am asked the question by people who have no intention of donating a dime. They use these ‘gotcha’ type questions as a way to avoid their own guilty conscience. They question the money that other people are rating through countless hours of hard work.
So what should we do with the money?
I realize that my response does not really answer the question. What is the best usage of the money? International travellers and workers worry over this question they ask it honestly. Is it selfish to spend the money for my trip? Shouldn’t I send them the money instead? Do I need to be on the ground?
I think you do.
The reasons why you shouldn’t just send money has nothing to do with a return on investment. The reason is much more important. When people see the problems of the poor simply as a financial issue, it perpetuates the myth that poverty is just an unfair distribution of resources. This leads to simple thinking and terrible plans.
- Poor people need money.
- We have money.
- Just Send Money.
- Problem solved. Next!
The idea that we should open our piggie banks and ‘just send money’ assumes that the situation just needs money.
This way of thinking is dangerous.
Sure, at times we all need cold hard cash. When you hear about a natural disaster; just send money! In places of extreme poverty the poorest people on the planet don’t want to slowly starve or watch loved ones die of diseases that could be easily prevented while we have anxious ethical argument about whether we should give or not.
Money matters a lot.
There are plenty of things that money does not buy
But, after managing a certain level of poverty. When people stop dying today or tomorrow. Fewer and fewer problems are fixed by simply sending more money. Community development happens when communities decide to gather together and change their destiny. Mission begins in trust and relationship. And that is why you need to go.
Your money can’t know the community but you can.
It doesn’t take much. Leave your wallet at home. Lend your voice and your ideas and your passion to others. Ignore the critics. Practice trust. Believe in people. Expect their capacity. Share your stories. Help people see another way. Be a catalyst. Dream with others. Bring in ideas. Take new ideas from others. Give and receive freely.
Consider the people in your life who have never given you a cent but have changed your world. How can you be that type of person to someone else?