Create a charity question/poll

Ok, hypothetical situation since I dont have this but I have always wondered about this.

Lets just say I want to create my own “Save the world foundation” to which people donate money.

Rather than spend that money on direct aid I invest that money and use the proceeds to provide ongoing aid using the return from those investments rather than just blowing it all out on one situation. Assuming I see trivial or no direct financial benefit from this, is this seen as appropriate building an endowment fund of sorts to continue helping others indefinitely rather than just funneling directly to the problem?

I could see where some people would get a little bent that “my dollar was not used for the specific problem I wanted” but such things could probably be mitigated by actually using targeted dollars for the actual problem they wanted and using others to contibute to the general fund might be acceptable.

I ask in part because I do have ideas along this line I might like to pursue, just wondering if this is seen as a legitimate form of “how these things work”

I have no actual knowledge of the laws, but I suspect that in order to get tax writeoff status (those that donate can write off the donation on their taxes), there might be some stipulation on the money actually being used “for something”.

The problem with your investment approach is that you assume your investments will be guaranteed to yield something. But consider the worst case scenario: all the funds that are donated to your cause are put into investments that tank. So those people who donated the money have “nothing” to show for what they donated to - nothing ever went toward what they thought they were donating for.

True although I am figuring that safer investments would be the way to go for such things since I want to save the world long haul, not just this week. Even if I was only making a couple percent, once I was established a huge percentage of my income from investments would be going towards our stated goals. I have a hard time imagining that charities of any scale are purely donation supported and they must on some level be operating from some type of investments.

A lot of charities receive money from governments. It’s a pain in the butt for governments to directly run aid programs, so they basically contract out to the actual work. Anyway, there are endowments that exist to get money to charities, but I don’t think they do a lot of the implementation.

Ideally, though, development projects are a sort of investment that continues to pay dues. Ideally whatever you invest in does perpetuate itself and grow. Nobody wants to found a school that you have to donate to every year to keep it going. What you do is build a school that improves people’s lives to the point that the community starts to be able to afford school fees or taxes to keep the school running on it’s own. Or if you are running a nutrition program, you don’t just hand people food (except, of course, in food crisis situations.) Instead, you set up a farmer’s collective that can market cash crops on the global market, increasing income. In the meantime you set up an education program teaching people sustainable farming techniques that will allow them to increase their food production while also gaining money from the cash crops. Then you provide micro-loans so that farmers can buy what they need to expand their operations.

It doesn’t always (or even usually) work out quite so neatly, but the point is that few development projects rely on indefinite injections of cash. Pretty much every legit aid organization takes sustainability very seriously.

Anyway, there are people (like me) who study these things and spend their lives doing it on a professional level. It’s a complicated subject and often counterintuitive, and a lot of mistakes have been made as we are figuring out what actually works. Find a school near you with a development program and contact them. They may be able to provide some guidance.

What you are proposing is exactly how charitably foundations work. People who contribute money to a charitable foundation who are disillusioned with the fact that 100% of their money isn’t going to the mission at hand are idiots for not doing their research to where their charitable dollar is going.

The only restriction you will come across is creating a specific mission/purpose which must be stated in your articles of incorporation. (“Save the world” may be seen by your state attorney general or the IRS as too overly broad.)

What I am pondering is a disaster relief group sending some food or funding to things like Katrina, Haiti, Japan, Etc eventually leading to the formation of my little “World Rescue Team*” I have mentioned as kind of a dream of mine in various other threads. It is a far more grandiose proposal, just wondering about "If I started laying the groundwork now for a few things would it be possible for me to just sit on the money providing some assistance without cutting into the main money pool and people are not going to think I am a jerk/scammer for operating that way.

  • basically a large team of EMS, security, communications, and logistics types able to be quickly loaded onto aircraft to deploy anywhere in the country/world to assist with various disasters bringing sufficent equipment to assist with recovery and refugee operations. Yes is is kinda redundant with certain millitary, national guard, FEMA type operations but since when is there ever enough help for the first week or so after such an event?

these two snippets are kinda the keys I was looking for. Someone like us who can activate a team to deliver and distribute assistance so government agencies dont have to keep folks “on the clock” waiting like millitary and EMS agencies do, and local EMS at any disaster is most likely going to be overwhelmed.

To get started, I’d take a look at what is already out there. Disaster relief is “sexy” in terms of aid (it’s quick and has fewer moral complexities than your average aid project,) so the field is pretty saturated.

After disasters, especially in very poor countries, all these foreigners come flooding in- and their efforts are not always useful. There are a lot of yahoos out there, and a lot of aid cowboys with good intentions but severely misguided notions who end up sucking up resources, adding to the confusion, and not really helping much of anyone.

After the tsunami in Thailand there were people bringing in stuff like baby bottles and diapers (which rural Thais generally don’t use) and bales of winter clothes that nobody wanted (and which then rotted in the rains and became breeding grounds for disease) and piles of food that depressed local food markets and made it impossible for poor farmers to recover. Unqualified or semi-qualified people came in offering dangerously inadequate physical and psychological health care with a worrying lack of follow up support- people might get one shot in a series of inoculations, and not have the structure to know or get the complete care they needed. And all these extra people clogged up infrastructure and resources that were desperately needed by others. In other words, there are some very good reasons to take the planning of what you are doing very seriously. Sometimes nothing is better than something.

If your goal is to make the maximum positive impact, you are going to have to do some honest examination of what you can do with the money versus what that money could do in an already existing organization such as the Red Cross. Poor communication between aid providers, service overlap, and projects that end up competing against each other are a massive problem in aid and waste millions. It’s irresponsible to start a project without making sure that you really do have something to offer that can’t be done better elsewhere. The existing organizations (Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, etc.) have spent years putting their infrastructure in place. It’s a waste to completely reinvent the wheel every time someone wants to do good, simply because someone wants to feel like they are in charge.

Once you have done this research and determined what you can contribute, then contact a professor of humanitarian assistance for literature recommendations. The UN and most of the major organizations put up all their literature (including best practices, evaluations of previous efforts, etc.) on the web for free. You can learn from that. There are decades of rigorous studies (and theory to compliment it) trying to suss out exactly what does and does not work. Get a working familiarity in the field. Then you will want to start working with some professionals (or getting some professional knowledge) regarding designing aid projects. There is a whole set of lingo and some key tools you will need to be able to learn to be taken seriously in the field.

I’m not trying to burst your bubble, but rather encourage you to dream in a constructive way. One person can make a huge difference, and lots of world-changing projects have started with a dream. But it’s equally true that anyone who can scrape up money for a plane ticket can start thinking they are going to be able to help out, and unfortunately that isn’t true. If you are going to think about how to do this, you have to think from the beginning about how to do the best possible job.

Understood and I appreciate the “Reality check” especially WRT the economic effects of aid disrupting local market forces.

I have a specialty in mind that Red cross and others do not provide, mostly heavy rescue and acute medical, so that angle is covered. Most of the need for our services would be gone within a week or so. Most folks trapped in rubble that long are dead anyway, and long term care will be covered by existing local resources as they start coming back online or larger more established aid operations get spooled up.

I was also thinking it would initially be a little more US centric until its a far more developed thing since its more likely that smaller operations could do more short term good and still be able to reach the affected area quickly. I full well realize that its a heck of a lot easier to have people running around stateside than aiming for the closest unaffected airport in the Not so Peoples Republic of Whatever and hoping we can navigate terrain, in a strange country, not speaking the language, and somehow not run afoul of legal issues and or confrontations with local law enforcement/millitary.

I operated under the assumption we would need to be self sustaining in the feild assuming that local infrastructure would be smashed anyway and we would probably be unable to get much in the way of local food, water, fuel, etc.