A new spin on charitable donations

shopperI blogged recently about how few nonprofits don't let you make microloans directly to recipients. That's a bummer if you, say, want to aid earthquake victims in Haiti or Chile. You want to make sure your money gets where you want it to go.

I came across a new Web site called What I Did Not Buy, and while it also doesn't go into specifics about who exactly gets your donations, it doesn't do a bad job explaining its intentions, it's connected to a reputable charity, and it gives a good spin on why you should donate your money.
The site's title says it all. Instead of buying a Gap sweater, the latest bright-colored KitchenAid mixer, power tools or other stuff that would sit in your closet or drawer, you can take the money you would have spent on that stuff and give it instead to women in Asia and Africa striving to start and grow businesses.

On the Web site, you see a list of items that donors chose to forego: flowers, a cashmere sweater, and a Kindle. It's a good spin. While many charities explain why you should donate your money online to their specific causes, this site simply puts out the message that you should not shop and just give, period.

I got a $50 gift certificate to Crate & Barrel for my birthday last month. While I am angling for a new set of mixing bowls, I decided to give the $50 I would have taken out of my wallet and donate it via WhatIDidNotBuy.org.

Plugging in that amount on the Web site, I was told my $50 "could provide a loan for a girl in Uganda to start her own business and bring in extra income to pay for school supplies and support her family." That sounds great but how do I know it really go there and not back to headquarters to cover operating expenses and the CEO's salary?

Truth is I don't, but after checking out WhatIDidNotBuy.org's backer, I feel assured that the money will go to a good cause. The site is run by BRAC USA, the American arm of a Bangladesh-based development and aid organization. It provides billions in microloans every year to needy borrowers, mostly women, in Asia and Africa. It currently has programs in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sudan, and India. It states on WhatIDIdNotBuy.org's Web site that less than 8% of the funds it gets goes to administration and overhead.

In terms of thumbs ups, WhatIDidNotBuy.org gets praise from Warren Buffett's daughter-in-law, Jennifer, who runs a nonprofit called NoVo Foundation that aims to better the lives of women and girls worldwide. She recently told the New York Times that her foundation donated the $350 it spent on holiday cards last year to support three teachers in southern Sudan, and instead of buying each other Secret Santa gifts, staff put that money to use on the Web site. Buffett also said she would swear off taxis and use the cab fare to support nonprofit causes.

While you may not want to give your money to BRAC USA or its Web site, WhatIDidNotBuy is good food for thought. You can do a lot of good in the world with that money you previously earmarked for shopping at the mall.
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