Clickbait. I love Amazon Prime—I’m not a monster. It’s like the cringe love you still have for United. Oof. Anyway, the type of online shopping that I’m about to describe might make your temples swell. Run now.
Or not! You’re likely an autonomous adult who has chosen to read my cyber-posted journal. That’s on you, bro. Also, hi to the one person who found me from a Russian search engine! I can’t see you from my house. I don’t have a house. But I’m sure you’re very friendly, and if you’d like to Skype, I’m game.
Charitable giving and conscious consumerism are tricky beasts for all people, but especially those of us with fewer years and consequently fewer pennies.
Well, I recently spent an obnoxious amount of time deciding whether or not to purchase an item online. It claimed to benefit a non-profit, and I wasn’t so sure. After hours of research, I walked out to the living room, announcing, “That’s some of the most valuable research knowledge I’ve gained in the past few months.” So, I thought I’d share. Here are a few insights on how to put trust in where you send and spend money.
If a company claims to give their proceeds to a cause:
· Look at their finances! There should be a budget breakdown somewhere on the website. If not, a quick email could get that in your hands.
If the larger company gives a percentage of proceeds to a non-profit:
· This is very common. It’s easier for the large corporation to proudly point at the non-profit without holding responsibility for how the funds are disseminated. This is when the deeper research comes in.
A Few Prompts for Non-Profit Skepticism:
1. Read their impact reports! How do they measure successful projects?
2. Who do they employ? It’s worth noting if the entire staff is native to another country.
3. Do they give donations? What are the criteria for what they’ll accept? In my experience, clear guidelines with preference for new or excellent condition items are most indicative of a healthy donation arrangement. Selling items to the community at a very discounted price is also good—it helps diffuse conflicts over preferential treatment for specific families or groups. The (marginal) profits from those sales should go directly back into operations.
4. If they claim to empower women, how many women hold administrative positions in the organization? If every woman’s direct supervisor is a man, well, do with that information what you will.
5. Is there a religious affiliation? If so, is conversion a prerequisite for any type of aid?
6. Do they sponsor students? How is the school chosen? If a student struggles, what are the behavioral and tutoring resources to support their experience? What’s the dropout rate for sponsor students? You should be able to find a breakdown of expenses with line items for uniforms, books, tuition, transportation, etc.
7. There will be volunteers. Is there a core group of regulars? Can you find articles they’ve written about their experiences with the non-profit? Were they compensated for writing that article? (We’ve now entered small print land.)
8. Have there been historical points of contention between the non-profit and local communities? You could check newspapers or other local news sources.
9. What’s their employee turnover rate? Do young people burnout quickly?
10. Is the information they present most frequently about broader regions of the country or particular individuals who benefit directly? This one is nuanced—privacy and secrecy border a fine fine line.
11. Where do they source the materials for your item and what are the working conditions where it is produced?
12. Is it virtually impossible to answer these questions? Is the website professional? Is your gut full of red flags?
If anything is unclear, call. You’re not bothering anyone. Do you know why they’re working at that non-profit? It’s not the late night salads ordered to the office or the paycheck. It’s passion. If their organization has a story of helping people, they will want to share that story. If the person you reach doesn’t know the answer, ask to be redirected until you find someone who does.
The above list is particularly geared towards non-profits in other countries/developing nations. To be very clear, I am sharing questions that you may find helpful. You can discern the answers for yourself, and you can still buy that motivational tshirt to help fight hunger. I ended up buying my item, too.
What was the item I agonized over? Well, I left a lot of things behind for my winter in Nicaragua. I wanted to travel as light as possible, and I thought it would be great to dip my toes in the minimalism pool. So, I didn’t pack any makeup. Zip. Zero. Nada. I’m not a person who wears it often anyways. Fast forward to weekends of going to clubs with my pals, hoping I didn’t get us turned away at the door because, of my three pairs of shoes in the country, zero were club appropriate. We started clocking the nearest market in case I had to sneak off and buy new shoes. I borrowed eyeliner to darken my eyebrows only for it to melt down my face as soon as I started dancing. Never again, friends. Was it hilarious at the time? Of course. Bad choices make great stories. However, I am now the proud owner of a travel makeup case. Melt my eyebrows once, shame on me. Melt my eyebrows twice and I’ll start worrying about my eyebrows.
Guess what’s next???
If anyone has a catchy name for my plant-based poem addiction, let me know.
you may scurry through Central Park
snap a pic of pigeons flocking to a bagel
ducks floating in a pond of fattening corn kernels
you could walk the Birch Tree Trail
outside the mountain town of Inje
with tons of forest bathers interested in balancing their walking chemistry
away from life’s electromagnetic fields
you should try out a resort in Jamaica
adorning yourself with only non-crinkled flowers
eat perfectly oblong oysters
or perhaps a weekend in Paris
where the wrought iron pyramid tamely twinkles
and the river laps gently against its concrete bumper walls
but don’t go to the Galapagos
leave the magma, boobies, and mixing frigid & balmy tides be
humankind has a habit of leaving
sticky fingerprints and smears of blood
once appointed as stewards, we now prefer stewardesses
narrating flights to places on the fringes of our grasp
maybe since we fetishize dirty dirty girls
we won’t mind a trashy planet
but let’s not go there.