When will we stop praising people for giving “stuff”?
Posted on May 24, 2012 at 4:41 am
An article in the Huffington Post’s Impact section caught my eye as the HuffPo once again heralded what is essentially questionable donor behavior.
In this particular article a man went down to a Kmart which was closing it’s doors and purchased every single item in the store and donated the $200,000 worth of goods to a single charity. What on the outside seems like a very charitable act brings up a lot of concerns for the problems the nonprofit is likely facing as a result of this unsolicited donation.
- First - were all of these items wanted or even useful for the charity? How much of the stuff is going to have to be given away to another charity or thrown away by the nonprofit that received it? Donors make a huge mistake in assuming that anything they donate is useful, it’s not. Imagine all the thong underwear, bottles of cosmetics, and other random stuff they likely received. Donated goods can be more of a burden than a boon to the organization receiving it.
- Second – does the charity actually have the storage space to house all of these items or is it going to cost them money to store all the stuff? Nonprofits may have to rent extra space or rearrange their entire office to store unexpectedly large donations.
- Third – did the person donate any funds to the charity to help cover their costs of transporting, tracking, storing and distributing all of these additional goods?
I’m guessing the donor did not even consider any of these questions. People that focus on giving “stuff” feel that their “stuff” is always wanted and needed and do not realize what goes into storing, tracking, distributing, or discarding all that “stuff”.
The nonprofit that received the donation is not going to complain publicly about this donation because if they did they would appear ungrateful and could lose a lot of other donations. But I’ll bet you there’s a lot of grumbing going on behind closed doors right now because of the extra burden caused by the unwanted parts of this donation.
So what could this well-intentioned donor have done to improve the quality of his donation.
- He could have donated all the money he spent on purchasing this stuff to the charity instead. It’s estimated to be $200,000 worth of goods but it’s unclear is this was the actual amount of money spent. But whatever the amount, this would have been an enormous help to the charity which they could have used to meet their clients greatest needs instead of just what the donor thinks are the greatest needs.
- He could have checked with the nonprofit first to find out which items were actually needed and which items were useless to them, this way he would ensure that he only purchased useful items.
- He could have matched his purchase with an equal amount of money to cover the nonprofit’s costs in storing, tracking, and distributing the donated goods.
While charitable intentions are good, it’s important that the desire to help is matched with the knowledge of what actually provides the greatest help. Continuing to praise all donations of stuff perpetuates questionable donor practices.
Update: A reader has pointed out that in the video linked to in the article (I read the article but did not watch the video assuming it contained the same information) the donor did pay to rent a building to house the donated goods. I’m glad to hear that he did take that issue into consideration but still question buying out a store’s entire inventory and donating the goods.
Guides by Good Intentions are Not Enough