Knock, knock. “Would you like to donate $150 and stand on your feet for 24 hours straight?” asked the bright-eyed philanthropic duo who showed up at my door a few months ago. A little groggy, my first thought was, “No, do you want to pay ME $150 to dance for 24 hours straight?”
After a little explaining, I found out that UNC Dance Marathon’s efforts were part of a larger, admirable effort sweeping the country.
But my initial reaction was a product of the fact that I’m used to charities pitching opportunities to get involved in something that won’t actually make a difference.
Campus organizations put together a charity bash almost every day. It’s indisputable that these events benefit thousands worldwide, but sometimes I question their effectiveness.
Bottom line: Charity functions have become the norm and, consequently, many participants have lost sight of the mission.
A soon-to-be-published study conducted by the Roosevelt Institute, a student think tank at UNC, addresses the issue. “Tools for Measuring the Impact of Social Organizations on the UNC Campus and Beyond” noted that common problems among student organizations’ measurement of their impact include lack of significant time investment, lack of quantitative data and a disconnect between the organization and its membership or target community.
Increased transparency and accountability is what is needed to ensure that the culture of shallow resume building doesn’t decrease the quality of charity.
Here in the land of “10 percent of all proceeds,” it can be all too easy to turn altruism into self-advertising. This doesn’t apply to everyone, yet it feels pervasive.
If interest really was primarily in helping out, then it follows that groups should measure the impact of their events in an effort to give the maximum benefit and make modifications for increasing their impact in the following year.
That’s exactly what some charity organizations do. Take SAFEchild, for instance. This Wake County-based organization works to help families break negative parenting patterns, to improve relationship and communication skills and to take advantage of community resources.
In a phone interview, Marjorie Menestres, the executive director of SAFEchild, said, “We evaluate all of the parents who complete our training and child abuse education programs. We ask them to complete pre-assessments before starting the training and post-assessments after the program terminates.”
For the record, UNC Dance Marathon seems to measure its impact pretty well, providing a complete list of their donations to families on their website.
But in our appear-to-care culture, it’s a rarity.
To many nowadays, it doesn’t really matter how effective charity work is as long as we can show future employers that we have a selfless, invested interest in humanity. So it’s no surprise that there’s no emphasis placed on evaluating effectiveness.
Sub-par aid of disconnected involvement with charity is less likely to put a dent in the needs of our society. To be truly effective, we need to shift our focus from our resumes to our missions: “For the kids.”
Hinson Neville is a columnist for the Daily Tar Heel. He is a freshman business major from Roanoke Rapids. Contact him at nevilleh@email.Unc.Edu
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