I have no doubt fundraising is extremely difficult. Because of this, some charities have resorted to what I’d consider gimmicks increase donations. These gimmicks are pretty effective because they make the giver feel good about giving, but they also tend to be very inefficient and end up taking resources away from other charities who are doing a much better job. One example that immediately comes to mind is a Barefoot Sunday campaign our church did a few months ago. They basically asked everyone in the congregation to give up the shoes they were currently wearing as an act of sacrifice. The shoes would then be sent to a third world country where they are needed. I certainly understand the intent of intentionally sacrificing something, making a spontaneous decision to follow God and showing solidarity with those in need. The issue is all of this is for the benefit of the giver, not the recipient. In this case the shoes were being sent to an orphanage just outside of a garbage dump in Cambodia. Apart from the immediate questions of what are all these children going to do with adult size shoes and whether high heels really the best thing to be sending there are other logistical issues. Around 300 pairs of shoes were donated and assuming an average replacement cost of $50 each, that’s around $15,000 donated. I don’t know exactly how much it costs to ship 300 pairs of shoes to Cambodia but I’d imagine it’s not cheap. There is no shortage of places to buy shoes in Cambodia for much cheaper, especially when buying in bulk. I have no doubt the same $15,000 could have been used to buy over a thousand pairs of appropriate style, new, childrens shoes. Similar campaigns by other organizations aren’t doing much better. Most of these shoe collection programs are organized by a charity called Soles4Souls. While they seem to realize many of the shoes donated aren’t appropriate for where they are needed and find ways to convert the shoes into cash, I think the efficiency at which they do it would be shocking to anyone who gave up their shoes. USA Today ran a great article explaining on what happens to these shoes once they are donated. In short, the majority of the shoes donated are sold off for around 50 to 75 cents a pair to for-profit companies who resell them to merchants in poor countries, with the justification of being a micro-finance program. No doubt a similar charity asking for cash instead could do a far better job, but they don’t get promoted at churches and Christian events because they don’t generate the same emotions for the givers as the Barefoot campaigns. While this is the most extreme example I can think of, I think a lot of our efforts are largely focused on the benefit to the giver rather than the recipient. Some other examples would be short term mission trips, sponsor child programs, send a goat to a village and matched donations. I think all of these are great and are needed, but I also think we need to be more honest about who’s truly benefiting and make sure the benefit to the giver isn’t coming at great cost to the receiver. I really want to hear others thoughts on this one. Very few seem to talk about this. Am I being far to critical? Do you disagree that these are gimmicks? Do they serve a greater good by getting people to give something who wouldn’t have otherwise?