5 of the Most Common Perceived Boundaries to Charitable Giving

5 of the Most Common Perceived Boundaries to Charitable Giving


People may have a number of reasons why they choose not to donate to charity. While this is a personal choice that each person has to make, many of the barriers to giving that people perceive are not actually insurmountable, and some of them result from simple misconceptions. In reality, everyone can make a difference no matter how much or little they give. Below are some of the most common perceived hurdles to giving that may not actually be barriers at all.


  1. “I don’t have enough money to make a difference.”

Many people choose not to give because they think of billion-dollar donations made by household names and major corporations. While these larger gifts attract a lot of media attention, individuals should not underestimate the power of smaller gifts, especially when many people are making them. Even very small donations can make an incredible difference in the lives of people in need.

For example, the nets used to protect against malaria-carrying mosquitoes cost only $2.50 and provide protection for two people for three to four years. Meeting basic needs costs far less in certain parts of the world. Only $2 can supplement the diets of seven children with micronutrients for an entire year. A donation of $5 can provide prophylaxis against schistosomiasis for six children for an entire year. About $30 can provide transportation to and from the hospital.



  1. “Donations do not actually help people who need it the most.”

Some individuals believe that philanthropy is not worthwhile because the people who need help the most will not actually receive it, so any donations are wasted. While this may be true with some organizations, thousands of nonprofits exist – each with a different mission and structure. The process of choosing a nonprofit may seem overwhelming, but individuals can turn to any one of several different watchdog organizations that can serve as a guide about who uses the money most effectively.

Some nonprofits are known for funneling virtually all donations into programs that directly serve people in need. These organization include Helen Keller International, Evidence Action, Fistula Foundation, and the Against Malaria Foundation. Potential donors should keep in mind that overhead expenses do not necessarily mean a nonprofit is not using the money to serve people. Then, they can develop their own minimum expectations to guide giving.


  1. “Poverty is not a problem that money can solve.”

People may choose not to donate because they do not think money is the solution. This perspective has a great deal of truth to it because sustainable development is what will really provide relief to the hundreds of millions of people living in extreme poverty. However, philanthropy has an important, if not immediately obvious, role in sustainable development.

Take, for example, the problem of malaria, which is one of the largest causes of mortality in Africa. Due to high childhood mortality rates, economies in this region struggle to grow. Thus, money for mosquito nets and medications actually helps keep children alive to become productive members of society. Donations that cover other medications keep children healthy so that they can go to school and get an education. In the world of philanthropy, everything is connected.


  1. “Philanthropy does not tend to our immediate communities.”

Sometimes, people see philanthropy as throwing money at an unseen issue in another corner of the country or a whole different part of the world. In truth, philanthropy can be as local as individuals want. People who want to invest in their own communities will find no lack of nonprofits addressing local problems.

At the same time, many people choose to support international causes not because they are not interested in local philanthropy, but because the dollar tends to stretch further in developing nations and can have a greater impact. Many larger donors split their giving between local, national, and international causes. However, each person needs to think about his or her priorities and align giving with personal values. People can make a big impact in their local communities with small gifts that are used efficiently.



  1. “Charitable giving is the government’s responsibility.”

Popular opinion is that the United States government contributes quite a bit of money to international aid, not to mention domestic social programs. However, the United States actually ranks toward the bottom of all developed countries in terms of foreign aid. Realistically, the amount of money designated for international aid and social programming is shockingly small, especially when compared to other parts of the budget.

This means that it is important for philanthropists to step up and play a role in aid. In the end, real change is created when governments collaborate with nongovernmental partners to address needs. Governments have their attention pulled in many different directions, but nonprofits are able to work closely with the communities that they serve and respond quickly to changing needs.


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