How to Get a Seat at the Table in the Fight to End Poverty

by | Apr 17, 2018

As a donor, making a gift can get you a seat at the table in fighting to end poverty. Sitting at the table gives you an up close and personal view of the problem. You become a smarter donor and they get food on their table.

Deciding whether the best answer is to write a check to the local food bank or give to a national organization with multiple programs is a real challenge. Your past experience may lead you to conclude one way is better than another. In reality, yesterday’s best answer may be different today. Consider this question.

What color is a zebra? Did you say white with black stripes? Not so, according to recent genetic and embryologic research. Of course, the idea of black on white made perfect sense to me in elementary school since it was easier to draw black stripes on a white piece of paper. But what seemed so simple in childhood has proven wrong, at least for the moment.

Today it is believed zebras are black and the white stripes are an addition, all on top of their dark skin. Researchers tell us the zebra’s black color is the result of pigment activation and the white stripes from a lack of pigment.

This particular confusion is of little importance, except it is symptomatic of the complexities that vex us as donors when we seek to make a real difference. What we think we knew yesterday is frequently proven wrong tomorrow, especially with tackling poverty and ending it once and for all.

The age-old question, what color is a zebra is no less complicated than the age-old question how can we end poverty? How do we end it in America? How do we end it around the world? How does it change how we give to organizations that simply feed the hungry child, family or senior today? Is that enough impact?

Can a donor give to feed someone today and ignore the hard work required to end poverty? Does the donor have a chance at making a difference by giving to the long-term fight to end poverty? President Ronald Reagan once said, “we waged war on poverty, and poverty won.”

Many have gone on to continue the war on poverty, in spite of the President’s 1987 declaration. In America, as around the world, it is no less complicated in India, China or Africa. The thread of hunger today runs through it all. Both large and small nonprofit organizations are in the fight.

Large organizations like Heartland Alliance, one of the world’s leading anti-poverty organizations, “works in communities in the U.S. and abroad serving those who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. It provides a comprehensive array of services in the areas of health, housing, jobs and justice,” according to their website.

Or, World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization who describe themselves online as “Dangerously soft-hearted. We partner with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.”

In my tiny corner of the world, the East Texas Human Needs Network works to end poverty through collective action. According to their website, they envision a community with equitable access for all, committed to the idea that “given equity and opportunity all people can reach their full potential.”

And then, in any community in America, there are many food banks, programs for the homeless, medical clinics serving the under and uninsured, and on and on it goes.

The challenge we face as a donor is where to give our limited resources or where to make significant gifts with the intent of equally significant impact?

You make a difference by giving. You can make the difference through both small and large organizations, local and international, right in your neighborhood or serving Bangladesh. Where and how you give stems from your passion, ideas, and how you define the difference only you can make.

Trusting the local organization to serve the many, most effectively comes from knowing something about their board of directors, financial stability, type of service provided and the volunteers who serve.

Important at both local and national levels trusting the national organization working across America and even internationally means time doing additional research to be confident they are spending more on the work than the cost of fundraising or managing the organization.

To make a significant gift aimed at significant impact, it means exploring the possibilities through dialogue with development and leadership staff.

Ending poverty has been a war cry for multiple generations. Should we give up? No, it deserves our attention. According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “The Black Swan” and this year, “Skin in the Game: Asymmetries in Daily Life,” we have the highest chance at success by taking action, almost any kind of action, as that is how we learn. That is how systems change, and the world becomes a better place for all inhabitants.

So, making donations to large and small organizations have an impact on what we know and learn about poverty. Your seat at the table puts food on their table and keeps us all in the fight to end poverty.

What action are you taking to join the fight? I’d like to know how you made a difference and how you knew it.

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  1. Nancy Crawford

    Favorite line in this article: “In reality,yesterday’s best answer may be different today”
    So true in so many areas of life. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Dawn Franks

    You nailed it. We need to constantly be looking at today and tomorrow.

  3. Christina Fulsom

    Thank you for this perspective!
    “What we think we knew yesterday is frequently proven wrong tomorrow, especially with tackling poverty and ending it once and for all.”

    Thank you for mentioning ETHNN!

  4. Donna Spann

    Dawn,thank you so much for a well-written and realistic view on The Fight to End Poverty. I’ve always heard, “the only thing constant in life is change”. It is so important for all of us to plan for and be ready for change in every aspect of our lives, including giving.


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