Last night, I attended a fundraiser to raise money for a children’s literacy program that was organized by a friend. It’s the season of charitible giving, and there are a ton of these kinds events and programs going on.
Nevertheless, this article about the revived role of the Vatican Almoner is kind of the best (and the book is short but fascinating if you love Flannery O’Connor!).
The Vatican Almoner, if you aren’t familiar (and…who is?), is a role that originated in the 13th Century, one that traditionally involves giving “one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged.” Until recently the job was more of a formality given to pre-retirement diplomats, but Pope Francis has ramped up the position and hired the young-ish, trusted Archbishop Konrad Krajewski as his one-man almsgiver.
“Myths can be comforting,” Ms. Purvis said. “Who wants to believe you can work your whole life and end up not being able to afford food? You want to believe those people had to have had something go wrong with them, in order for them to end up in that place. It’s scary to think you work two jobs and not be able to afford food.”
…From Brooklyn to the Bronx, in churches and community centers, she found a range of food pantries: from well-stocked, efficiently run operations to mom-and-pop outfits where good intentions exceeded capacity. What they had in common was need, with people waiting three hours or more for a bag of basic grocery items. Meat was a treat. In some places, baby formula and diapers were among the necessities handed out. Ms. O’Loughlin said that while most of the places she visited limited people to a monthly allotment, more resourceful people trekked to different pantries around the city. Following them home, she saw scenes where people huddled in building lobbies to trade food items or went upstairs to share with homebound neighbors.
The quote is from Margarette Purvis, the president and chief executive of Food Bank For New York City in Lens, the New York Times’s photography blog, which has images of food lines today. Thanksgiving and the December holidays are the times when donations to food banks and other charities that help the hungry and needy see big increases, and people are hyper aware of the places that are trying to help. It’s a good reminder that these food lines exist year-round. (See also: “How a Food Bank Changed a Community,” an excerpt from Melville House from earlier this year.)
Photo: State Farm
We’ve talked about Give Directly, a charity that allows donors to give money directly to poor people, a few times, and Planet Money has an update on what happen when you give money to poor people in Kenya.
My mentor and personal hero Oprah Winfrey had a yard sale over the weekend that blew all of our weekly check-ins out of the water. She raised $600,000 for her school in South Africa by selling a bunch of her personal belongings (and a few things from her long-time exercise guru, Bob Greene).
The Chronicle of Philanthropy looks at the rich and the financial advisors of the rich and their differing approaches when it comes to charitable giving. They find that financial advisors are “under the misimpression that wealthy people may be reluctant to give because they fear not having enough money for their heirs and themselves.” But the REAL reason they are afraid to give away their money is “fear that nonprofits will misspend their money, their lack of connection to a charity, and their concern that they will face a deluge of donation requests from other groups once they give to one organization.”
“Like my father before me, I care deeply about having my picture taken while walking purposefully next to someone African in Africa.”
This American Life teamed up with Planet Money who sent reporters David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein to Kenya to see whether or not GiveDirectly actually works. Spoiler alert: Some people used the money to make their lives better and start businesses, while others misused the money given to them.
Do I have a moment for the children?
Amanda Taub was initially skeptical about the Water is Life charity ad until she actually watched it.
Peter Buffett, a composer and the son of Warren Buffett, had an opinion piece in the Times this weekend examining the rise of the nonprofit sector and the way we “give back.” Peter often hears people say, “if only they had what we have”—what we have being clean water, free markets, and access to education and the internet—but what we also have is, well, poverty and inequality. How can we eradicate poverty in other countries if we haven’t figured out a system to eradicate it where we live?
For your consideration, Brendan O’Connor submits this passage from Renata Adler’s Speedboat (1976).
The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year looking at 5,800 charities nationwide that pay professional solicitation companies—basically for-profit telemarketers—to raise donations. Red flags are raised when charities use for-profit fundraising companies because experts agree that using this method is a highly inefficient way to collect donations because much of the money—as much as 90 cents for every dollar—goes directly to pay the telemarketing companies.