Saturday, March 12, 2011

Helping Reduce Poverty Wisely

In the ongoing discussions around how to remove the large-scale illegal camping in the Parkway, and how to help the homeless in general, a crucial element is how to help people help themselves.

The Philanthropy Roundtable published a book in 2005 addressing this, “Helping People to Help Themselves: A Guide for Donors”, (free print or download) which helps donors determine what programs they can support who will have success helping others.

An excerpt from the introduction.

“From the wealth generated by Americans, tens of billions of dollars a year are donated through the private sector to relieve suffering. But the very size and complexity of these efforts can be daunting to donors. Thos who want to ensure their aid is as effective as possible want to find and support the best poverty-fighting programs, knowing that much well-intentioned giving has little to show for its benevolence. But finding the best can be difficult.

“While this book does not claim to be exhaustive in detailing all that is being done to assist the poor, it does sketch out several critical, overarching principles that funders should bear in mind…

"First, respect the dignity of the poor by recognizing the role that personal responsibility must play in their lives. The ideal is to help people to help themselves, and to avoid a situation in which the poor end up dependent on public or private programs. Challenging the poor to take responsibility for their lives is also a challenge to donors, who can be tempted to focus on their own good intentions rather than the long-term prospects of those they seek to help. (pp. 6-7)