Who deserves donations?

From a secret location in Hell’s Kitchen (we’ll call it City Sandwich, because that’s what it is, and hot gosh if their smoked Portuguese pancetta isn’t something to write blogs about), I’m checking out the Internet, as is my wont and also my job, when I come across a tweet that asks, provocatively,¬†“Who deserves donations?”¬†

Indignant, I (tenderly) set aside my sandwich and stared hard into the middle distance, thinking, What a word! Deserve. Everyone deserves basic necessities and then some, dignity above all else! And where is the dignity in disembodied internet voices reducing those who may – for a complicated variety of reasons – be unable to adequately provide for themselves and their families to a set of quantifiable factors that determine worthiness.

A few thoughtful chews later, I realized I had completely misunderstood the question.

Of course, working with Zealous Good has helped attune my mind to think “in-kind” when I think donations. What the question was asking was how do donors/foundations decide to grant funds to organizations – a very different and complex beast itself, and one that absolutely, yes, relies on rubrics and metrics and proven, quantifiable results. Fair question! Eat your lunch and calm down Kristin!

But it got me thinking. About the necessity and worth of in-kind donations, and why people donate. Not going to lie, as simple and convenient as our process is, it might be just as easy to haul your old stuff to the alley, knowing that within hours it will have been picked up by someone. I once, in the rain no less, set out a couch that, after 4 years and as many moves, had seen better days. ¬†Nevertheless, that broken, beaten, and stained sucker had presumably found a better home by day’s end.

So why should you bother donating?

While it may be debatable what our human(e) responsibility is to our fellow human beings (you could guess where I fall on this argument), I don’t think many would argue that, given the ability and opportunity, they wouldn’t want to help someone under duress.

I understand, of course, that “opportunity” is a loaded word, with regard to donation. The onus of making the time to sort and bag your items, to do the research and occasional legwork on connecting with an organization, falls squarely on your shoulders. You’re not made of time! I know. I know.

But say you could make the time. And there you have them, all your neatly packed bags and boxes, ready to go to…someone. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Why do you do it? What compels you to donate?

Is it out of a sense of social responsibility? Do you cull joy from giving? Is it the sense of fulfillment, of doing what you can, when you can? Do you donate to support a friend’s organization? Is it out of empathy, rooted perhaps in your or a family member’s similar experience with circumstance?

I’m interested. I’m curious. I want to know. Indulge me.

I know you have your reasons. You are mindful and good. You live with intention, or try to. So you give. You give what you can when you can.

You experience some measure of success, or fortune. You find yourself with an excess, or with new items to replace your old ones. What a good life.

You inventory that which you no longer need, that which you have in excess. You tell us about it. 

We tell you who needs it. We connect you directly.

You sort out the exchange. In return for your goods, you get… what? Aside from our boundless gratitude and that of the organizations and families you are helping.

Why do you do donate?


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