Thousands of well-meaning people around the world give regularly to charities or want to donate or get involved in some way but are unsure of the best way to go about it. Many of these people lack knowledge of the real issues on the ground affecting ordinary Africans. Their motivation to donate money might be based on guilt or pity or misconceptions about Africa that are fuelled by negative images and misleading stories relayed by the media, or they are unaware of alternative, more hands-on strategies to donate and help that can sometimes give better, more tangible results and are ultimately more satisfying for all concerned.
So here are 15 points worth considering that I hope will help potential donors understand their own motivation and tips on possible donation strategies.
1. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that Africa is all about poverty. It is extremely rich in resources both human and natural.
2. Do not watch TV images of Africa and feel only pity: starvation, war, HIV-AIDS etc…
3. Do not give money to Africa in an attempt to make yourself feel good
4. Do not give money to Africa because you feel guilty about colonialism
5. Do not forget that governments are often incompetent and corrupt. The intended recipients of aid are not at fault
6. Do not forget that there are 53 countries in Africa where your money can make a significant difference.
7. Do some research on your chosen charity before committing yourself to a donation, or support.
8. Do not write a cheque or set up a direct debit before asking for proof of how the money will be spent. Not all charities are accountable
9. Donate to just one or two preferred and registered charities; this will make you more focused and make it easier to monitor the results
10. Do not assume that you cannot visit an NGO – either in their offices or on the ground: it’s your money after all
11. Why not consider a visit to Africa to see for yourself and make friends before donating?
12. Do not think that you cannot find individuals, philanthropists and volunteers that are already active on the ground and liaise with them.
13. Do not forget to consider empowering a local individual. Invest time in teaching and learning with that person so he can pass the knowledge on to others in the community
14. Target charities with a sharp focus on a particular area: health, new technologies, empowerment, education, infrastructure, rape centres, climate change, water, agriculture, etc
15. Finally, make friends in Africa and find partners and doers that can help you get involved in ongoing or stagnant projects. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.