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Responsible giving

Originally posted on the InterAction blog, 12/5/11. 

Last Friday, I attended a great presentation for InterAction’s members’ communications directors by the Ad Council and the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) about a free online toolkit being created over the next several months on responsible giving. The Ad Council and CIDI are part of a coalition of organizations funding and coordinating the project, including InterAction.

One problem that international nonprofits know all too well is the well-intentioned but ill-informed donations that citizens try to give. Donations of necessities like clothing and water need to be shipped overseas, and face steep shipping costs, tariffs and customs fees. One example that the Ad Council gave was a statistic from USAID that the amount of water you could buy for $500 locally in poorer countries would not only cost about $50,000 in the U.S., but it would also incur between $150,000-$700,000 in additional costs after shipping and customs, depending on where it’s sent.

Buying locally has another benefit – when a disaster strikes, the affected people aren’t spending their money, so the local economy always takes a hit. When a nonprofit buys relief supplies in the country that’s been hit by a disaster, this keeps the economic effects from spreading beyond the immediate disaster area.

The toolkit will be created from research and focus group interviews, and will be a ready-made common message for any organization that wants to use it. It’s not just for nonprofits – it’s also great for church groups, community leaders and government officials at every level to educate the people who reach out to them and want to help during a disaster. It can be customized to the details of the particular disaster, and there will be several different pieces that organizations can use (factsheets, text for local radio stations, customizable pieces like social media posts, videos, web banners, etc.).

The toolkit should be released in June, coinciding with the beginning of hurricane season. If you’re interested in the toolkit, or in helping to coordinate or fund it, please contact the Ad Council.

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