Showing 8 posts tagged giving

Give any amount, today, to 2 special projects in Sri Lanka!

I’ve never made one of my causes public, not even Give2Asia.  And due to age more than anything, I’ve never been a racer for causes.

But this year, we have a cause: helping some of those most in need in Sri Lanka, and I ask you to take 5 minutes to give $25, $50, or any amount to the Tsunami Renewal Fund (

Sri Lanka was the first stop for this T+10 personal research project exploring the philanthropic legacy of the 2004 tsunami.  It was a remarkable trip, and if you haven’t seen it, check out the trip video we are so proud of:; thanks to Mayra Padilla for all her insights and photo/videography.

Conflict still divides Sri Lanka, and while the war is over and things are markedly better, there remain disparities between the Sinhalese/Buddhist South and the former Tamil conflict zone in the North and East.

We can’t solve these problems but we know two organizations that can help families and youth in different ways.  More detail is in the previous post, and we are raising just $10,000 for 2 projects: the FOUNDATION OF GOODNESS and the 181 individuals in Neethipuram Village to the North, and SRI LANKA UNITES, which works with youth on reconciliation across the country.

In addition to what we’ve put into Tsunami+10, we’ve made our own gifts to the Tsunami Renewal Fund (  My 3:1 match from work helps!

Why now and why Sri Lanka?  There are some things you give to simply because of inequality and great need.  Neethipuram counts, with families earning barely $100/mo and the traumas of conflict fresh.  We know exactly where our funds will go and who they’ll help.  These are gifts for concrete hope, into a tough but ready environment, and we know that FOG has complementary commitments in the village and the North.  We can trust both organizations to keep us updated over time.  

This once (and perhaps next year for Aceh, Indonesia!), give what you can, and any amount matters.  The TSUNAMI RENEWAL FUND is only for grantees and programs (not Tsunami+10 itself), and is tax deductible.  Click:

In any event, best wishes!

Mike, with Mayra

Do we expect enough from disaster giving? Allan and Sydney on being a disaster donor.

Allan Paulson

Someone asked me the other day, did I think that the donor satisfaction in giving was mostly at the point of making the gift, or was it about learning about the results, and I thought it was a really good question.  I asked myself that question about our disaster relief and the answer was that I never looked at the results.  I was sort of asking myself, well why?  In part I think it’s because I would distrust what I was learning.  Look at the web site of some of these organizations – they’re just going to tell me about  a couple of nice warm, fuzzy success stories; they’re not going to tell me what really happened in any analytical way.

Sydney Munger

I think that I always feel that however much money I am able to give to disaster relief, it’s so small compared to the whole pot, that I just have to trust at the point of giving that it’s going to have some good effect.

Allan’s choices for disaster giving — feet on the ground, consider local partners, and do recovery

Allan Paulson

What we look for are organizations that have feet on the ground; organizations that are already there and doing work, with indigenous infrastructure –- those are the people who will use the money the best.

For pure humanitarian reflief, like bringing in a water station – I can’t deal with that.  That’s for the International Red Cross and the UN and all the big governmental organizations to deal with.  What I feel I can help with is some kind of reconstruction where there are fewer resources.

What impressed me so much about the Chef’s Guild story was that it was a Sri Lankan professional organization that was the main actor here. And somehow a link to a chefs group in the US for funding. That seemed to me to be ideal: it wasn’t even an international nonprofit that had programs there.  They had roots in the profession and the networks so they could create mentoring opportunities and help with job interviews and all of that; that’s fantastic.

It’s sort of unusual in my sense of things but I’ve been trying to encourage one of our Kenya grantees to establish connections with the business sector.

What makes a successful gift? More from Allan and Sydney on disaster and international giving.

How do you gauge success?

Sydney Munger:

I think success is if the money actually got to the people that needed it and they made an honest attempt to make a difference in these people’s lives — and if it didn’t work, that they tried to figure out why.

But my expectation is that it’s not necessarily going to make a huge difference, just that the money’s going there and they’re going to do their best to make sure that it addresses a real need. And that’s the same way I think about Pangea funding, the grants we make are going to people that we trust, they’re going to do their best, and if it doesn’t work, we’re going to find out why and what can be learned from it. So I have a pretty broad tolerance.

Allan Paulson

I can’t control what happens after I give the money, so I want to give it to what I think is a good place and trust that it will be put to use with skill and good intention. And if that happens I’m satisfied. I love to read about good results but that to me is not a measure of whether it was worthwhile or not, knowing that development is a very chancy thing to begin with.

Allan and Sydney of Pangea talk disaster giving

Allan Paulson:

I’ve given to maybe three disasters in the last decade: the tsunami, the Afghanistan winter where hundreds of thousands were starving, and Haiti.  We gave to Partners in Health for Haiti and maybe Mercy Corps for Afghanistan. These were $1,000 gifts, which are fairly large donations for us.

I feel guilt tinged when disaster strikes and think, how can I not do this?  There’s this suffering right up in my face.  That’s followed by the feeling of relief when we do something.  I feel we’re all connected; that I have to take care of my neighbor.

(Have you given to domestic disasters?)

No…that’s interesting!  I guess I have a bias for doing international stuff because I think that most people will not, whereas the US has the resources, active corporate donors, etc.

Sydney Munger:

I prefer to give for everyday needs in developing grassroots communities because disasters attract so much money.  When a disaster hits, I feel that so many other people are giving that it’s not needed for me to get right in there. There is so much money there, especially for domestic events. I don’t know that I feel good about this or not, but it feels like the responsibility of the government to respond. I often don’t feel like it’s the best way for me to make a difference.

* T+10’s first donor interviews on disaster giving *
Pangea international giving circle members Allan Paulson (pictured) and Sydney Munger graciously spent a Seattle brunch with me talking charitable giving and disasters! 
They also read the Chef’s Guild series, and here’s Allan’s first thought on it: 

What made the Chef’s intervention successful is that it unfroze the traditional culture. So these young people might not have been as interested in leaving the fisher community by the sea if the whole thing hadn’t been smashed up.
Without the tsunami, you might have started the same program with a very different result. So it seems to me that the reconstruction phase is an opportunity for people to reconstruct their lives in ways they wouldn’t have thought of before.

* T+10’s first donor interviews on disaster giving *

Pangea international giving circle members Allan Paulson (pictured) and Sydney Munger graciously spent a Seattle brunch with me talking charitable giving and disasters! 

They also read the Chef’s Guild series, and here’s Allan’s first thought on it: 

What made the Chef’s intervention successful is that it unfroze the traditional culture. So these young people might not have been as interested in leaving the fisher community by the sea if the whole thing hadn’t been smashed up.

Without the tsunami, you might have started the same program with a very different result. So it seems to me that the reconstruction phase is an opportunity for people to reconstruct their lives in ways they wouldn’t have thought of before.

Public/donor views on Greg Mortensen and CAI

Alex Heard has written an exceptional update on the evolving lawsuits and perspectives which began with the allegations in Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit" — The Trials of Greg Mortensen, in Outside Online.

There’s also testimonial video on the website. 

The article is now slightly dated, with the decision from the Montana attorney general investigation and resulting actions (to be linked soon).

This is a fascinating story spanning views on poetic license, the requirements of (nonprofit) management, risks of humanitarian work in remote locations, donor expectations, nonprofit Board governance, and oversight by the IRS and states. Take your pick, there’s a complex angle and no shortage of divergent opinions.

Nicholas Kristof posted the article and got hundreds of replies.  As a way to start to get under these issues, I’ve pasted the original replies of some here.

So there you have it: “Mortenson is either a scumbag or a saint—or some combination thereof.” Probably a combination. It’s not uncommon for a founder to confuse his organization with himself and use it as his private piggy bank. Nor does that mean that no good has been done. That’s why all organizations need independent boards of directors and outside auditors.

This sounds like a fair presentation. Greg Mortenson isn’t perfect, but he’s not the con artist and prevaricator he is often currently made out to be. The real question is: did the schools get built and are they up and running? And the answer seems to be yes.

A sad story that unfortunately places all nonprofits in a shadow of doubt. In my opinion, CAI’s main problem was in confusing activities with outcomes; instead of educating girls, they were building schools.

Greg Mortenson is a liar and a crook. His actions were egregious. He should be jailed for fraud.

Anyone who thinks there isn’t a little “fabrication” in all aspects of life is fooling themselves; as is anyone who can hold someone to the standards of being all “saint.” I hold hope that Mortenson told more truth than lies and did more good for those children than for his own self worth.

Thanks very much, Nicholas…I and my friends have much fondness for Greg Mortenson so I took the time to read all of this, hungry for all the info…and as in the above comment…am very happy to be told that all the 61 schools are operational. (sixty one schools…impressive).

Given the enormous scope of war profiteering and sketchy dealings in Afghanistan, I wish Krakauer picked bigger fish to fry. The most interesting piece of this story to me is the extent to which Mortenson’s rise might have been supported by the US government being rabidly eager for some positive propaganda to spin from an ugly war. Surprised Mr K didn’t delve into the propaganda aspect very much especially after his extremely late book about Tillman.

Interesting to note that The Gates Foundation lists only Bill, Melinda and Bill Senior (Bill’s father) as Directors…

In being dishonest Greg did something that was unfair to himself (he could have just told the truth and many people still would have been moved and donated) to the public (people deserve to know exactly what they are giving their money and time to) and to other NGOs (this makes it even more difficult to convince people that the non-profit sector is doing good work). However as much as many would like to say that Greg is a fraud, the truth is that schools have been built in places where many people would never have dared to travel, because of Greg’s passion. So perhaps this is the real story…. not that he did things that were questionable in trying to change children’s futures. But that a man from half way around the world, had a vision about improving girls lives, and through them the whole society, and worked to bring a chance at education to a population that most of the rest of the world didn’t even know existed.

Any feedback from the kids?

I think CAI and Greg have done some great work, however given the amount of $ they were raising, it’s surprising they didn’t do much more of it - $23mil/yr is HUGE income for any group! Sadly, much of non-profit fundraising these days is more akin to a popularity contest, so telling the best/most exciting story is almost required.

you can trust Krakauer, he’s a proven and scrupulous journalist. some folks just want to attack him out of professional jealousy.

I have read both of GM’s books, heard him speak, and am a monthly contributor to CAI. I still believe in his work despite the fact that there may have been some problems with the details. If a class action suit is brought, I hope that doesn’t include me … how do I separate myself from such a thing?? I applaud his work and his schools and will continue to support them.

Tsunami Plus 10 — an invitation to a global story of recovery and philanthropy

I invite you to do the unusual: to revisit a faded disaster; to stick with it for 2 1/2 years, adding your ideas and opinions; and to make the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami more meaningful than just poignant Christmas coverage.

I’ll be joined by advisors around the world, including Mayra Padilla as fellow protagonist and photographer.

Why disasters, and why philanthropy?

It could be that natural disasters are picking up steam.  Three of the century’s deadliest have occurred in the last ten years (the Haiti quake, 2004 tsunami, and Cyclone Nagris).  The most costly are also within easy reach of memory (the Tohoku quake/tsunami, Sichuan quake, Great Hanshin/Kobe quake, and Katrina).  And if you believe the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, extreme weather events may be the norm for a while.

Charitable giving to disasters is how we respond, with a check, click or text. One survey showed 47% of households gave to 2005 hurricane relief, for which $5.2 billion was donated in the US.  Giving USA reports that 2010 giving to international affairs surged 15.3%, the largest gain of any cause, driven by the Haiti quake and other crises.

Disaster giving is a tremendous resource for lasting change, not just band aids.  Yet it is messy: contributions are given emotionally and spontaneously, used under extreme conditions, and usually donated in a short span to pooled funds, with few strings attached.

What can we learn and accomplish?

I want to investigate the impact of our dollars.  Who did we help?  What difference did we make with the grants I supervised, donated by hundreds who trusted their tsunami gift to Give2Asia?

How do contributors feel about the money’s long term impact, and what can be learned to boost effective and satisfying giving in the future?

I want to learn what Give2Asia and others did well — and less well.  How effective were our local grantees and how do they best complement international aid agencies?

I want to see how the two hardest hit regions, Sri Lanka and Aceh, fare today: the tsunami interrupted civil conflict and violence in both, and each took a different path to the relative peace of today.

We want to source and share knowledge with the global community — and the greatest test of success will be tsunami gifts from those reconnected to these places and wishing to act anew.

Why the 2004 Tsunami?

I was once warned by a mentor about the word unique but I’ll risk any tsking here: the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami was unique among disasters.

Compared to events since, the 2004 tsunami reached across thousands of miles and took its 230,000+ lives from 14 nations. It ranks as the 5th deadliest natural event in the last century.

It triggered historic disaster giving: an estimated $13.4 billion in worldwide pledges.  In America, $3.1 billion was donated in a country that gives only lightly beyond its borders. The disaster brought two former US presidents across the aisle in support of places few Americans could spot on a map.

The tsunami also came on the cusp of a new media age.  Online giving came into its own; thanks to Groundspring (now part of Network for Good), my own organization was accepting online gifts by Dec. 28.  The images were powerful and pervasive even then, before Facebook, YouTube and the first tweet.

Who are we?

Mike: I’ve had the honor of working in philanthropy for more than 15 years.  In addition to Give2Asia, I’ve grown in various roles and am currently part of the exciting College Ready division at the Gates Foundation.   I’m also a one-time journalist who has a fresh itch.

Mayra: a marketing consultant and photographer who is, first and foremost, a global citizen. Photography, travel, new connections and witnessing triumph over adversary are among my greatest sources of joy. Join us for the stories we’re about to uncover.

Who are you?

A far more interesting question! Please let us know: show yourself and follow us on Twitter; Like the Facebook page; subscribe via email.  Most of all, post comments and questions.


Enough prologue.Stay tuned for more preliminary research from Sri Lanka, donor perspectives, and findings from a lit review on tsunami recovery. 

An August trip to Sri Lanka will be here before we know it.