In re: REDiculous?

I love charities and people giving to charity, but being the cynical one I’m always happy to question the motives of people who give, the results of giving, etc., so with that said… you may remember a while back when the product red campaign started I made a post on the subject.Well since then apparently a lot of money (almost $20m) has been raised, but lots and lots more money has been spent advertising the campaign, and lots more went in profits to these companies, who received countless good will in the connection with saving the world (see Intelligent Giving). Is that bad? Not necessarily, its just that I think its important to remember that most companies will be acting in the interest of their bottom line, not that they should be apologizing, but that the red campaign is just another way to advertise, brand and move product, possibility reaching a consumer base outside their grasp.

Saw and interesting article (see Christian Science Monitor “Buy a T-shirt to fight AIDS. But does it really help?“) on the campaign, its highs & lows, the misconceptions (like how much does gap give for those t-shirts?) and if people realized that they were donating $1 to charity with their $20 shirt, would they want to wear a shirt that proudly proclaimed ‘I gave $1 to charity’? I’ve always thought a lot of Thoreau’s statement on charity, that it was very selfish to give and wonder if it is really selfish to wear a shirt that proclaims how good a person you are. Of course you are a good person, you helped build a factory in Africa to make cotton t-shirts with clever slogans and can in turn tell us all about it.

Yet I may be going overboard, as consciousness of the problem has been raised, money was raised in a large amount without a hurricane or tsunami and ad money was spent on products, but focused on the underlying problems as well.

“We hijacked marketing budgets that would normally have gone for good products, but now they’re going for good products that will also bring money into Africa,” says Tamsin Smith, president of (RED). “There are 10 miles of Gap windows in the United States. And for many weeks [those displays] were talking about AIDS in Africa.””

Other ways to help around the world exist of course too, one such way I read about in an interesting op-ed the other day by Nick Kristof in NY Times “You, Too, Can Be a Banker to the Poor” (sub required)where he mentioned a website www.kiva.org, that allows people with their credit cards to take up micro lending for as low as $25 (part of a loan). I checked it out and was really impressed, being a fan of micro lending (rather than just straight up gifts) and having read a lot on the spectacular results that have been achieved I thought it would be a good way to ‘burn’ $100, plus when the loan comes due, you actually have a pretty good shot of getting your money back (close to 100% they report) and then to extend that money elsewhere, or to take your investment that brought you no return and laugh all the way to the bank.

“Being a finance person is better than being a doctor,” Ms. Sadat said. “You can cure the whole family, not just one person. And it’s good medicine — you can see them get better day by day.”

Small loans to entrepreneurs are now widely recognized as an important tool against poverty. Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his pioneering work with microfinance in Bangladesh.”

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