Money and Donations

Last Sunday, I was listening to NPR. One of my favourite shows is Planet Money, because it explains a range of issues related to money in a way I understand, and, for the most part, agree with. Since I’ve stopped running in the past couple of weeks, I am behind on my podcasts. I listened to two shows, one about US government transfer payments and other assorted welfare-related programs, the other, about people trying to “do good” and donate money to a specific project in Haiti.

Planet money learned two things: 1, that transfer payments are actually very effective, regardless of how the recipients spend money and 2, that donations are difficult to manage.  NGOs have learned this lesson, but are obviously not sharing this in an effective way.

Why do people feel the need to know exactly where their money goes? Why do people feel so possessive about their money and so respond positively do these direct-donation opportunities? What is the role of generosity here? What void do child-sponsorship programs, simulacra of relationships between two people, fill? Why do organizations that recruit donations in a traditional way seem to be suffering at the expense of indiegogo and kickstarter?

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