Why I am not giving to Myanmar yet (and some thoughts on social media)

Beth Kanter is one of my heroes and she’s one of the reasons I am on Twitter. Today she asked me to blog or tweet about the BlogHer Myanmar giving effort. And I didn’t. And I felt like a total jerk because, dude, it’s BETH KANTER. And she’s amazing.

But it’s too soon for me to give any money, or ask others to do so. Global Giving has not chosen a recipient yet for Myanmar funds. If you look at their Myanmar page, there is no recipient listed. I confirmed by calling them. Eventually they’ll pick out a recipient organization who’ll provide aid to Myanmar, but there is no chosen organization yet. If I give now, my money will just sit with Global Giving. I might as well have it sit with me while I review NGOs and not pay the 10% fee to Global Giving.

There is another reason not to give money too soon. Some disaster relief NGOs will collect money for an emergency in a location where they have no established presence and if they receive enough, they will start an operation there. If they don’t receive enough money, they’ll just donate the money to another NGO. (Usually after taking their own overhead). It’s a pretty standard practice. If you go to the list of NGOs accepting donations for Myanmar, you’ll see that many of them have no current presence on the ground.

So, by donating now I am at risk for moving it through two pass-throughs – Global Giving and a second NGO before it goes to a group which is operational in Myanmar. (To be fair, I don’t know what Global Giving’s rules are – they may not allow a non-operational organization to receive money. Their website doesn’t make it clear.) [Edited to add: The COO of Global Giving commented on this post, and linked to their due diligence policy, which explains their criteria for selecting organizational partners.]

The best way to give, in my opinion, is to check out NGO websites until you find one that already has a presence in Myanmar, and give to them. I suggest World Vision. Yes, they are faith-based to a somewhat creepy degree, but they have been in Burma since 1958. I’ve worked with them in several locations, and they are very professional and run excellent programs.

(Oh, and here’s my social media thought: turning down a request like Beth’s from someone you respect is nearly impossible. I have work to do tonight, but I had to put this blog post up first, just to live with myself.)