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One way individual donors can get great bang for buck

December 15, 2011

The first opportunity in our High Impact Holiday Giving guide continues to create ripples:  Slate’s article Can the Cans, the New York Time’s blog The Case Against Ending Food Drives, and Think Out Loud’s Canning Food Drives? broadcast are the latest contributions to the conversation. In that example, we discussed why making a financial donation to a food bank or charity can have so much more impact than a canned food drive. The food industry sector, working with the national network of food banks, now makes its surplus food available for distribution to needy people at pennies on the dollar for what it costs food drive participants to buy the donated food.

The ability for donors to leverage others’ contributions is a theme in many of the high impact models we discuss in our guide. They often explain why donors can create such a meaningful change at a reasonable cost.

For example, in Opportunity 7: Deliver life-saving medical treatments to children, we describe how donors, working in partnership with local and international organizations, can save a child’s life for approximately $1000.

How is that possible?

As with all social impact, it is possible because of the contributions of many players:

  • Scientific developments and production scale mean that for the 3 biggest killers of children in the developing world – malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea – proven, cost-effective treatments exist for less than a dollar. Antibiotics that effectively treat pneumonia cost less than 10 cents a dose; pediatric medications to treat malaria are $1 or less; oral rehydration therapy to save a child from dehydration due to diarrheal disease can be prepared at home for pennies.
  • Organizations such as the Clinton Foundation, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and the President’s Malaria Initiative negotiate for and purchase these commodity medications so that donors don’t bear that cost. They also provide technical assistance in helping countries identify which interventions will be most cost-effective, contextualized by a country or region’s financial and human resources and an ever-changing local epidemiology.
  • In most regions, the public sector has infrastructure, such as referral networks and professional staff to supervise community health workers.

What’s left for donors to provide is that critical last link – community health workers who can reach impoverished families where they live, providing life-saving diagnoses and treatment where possible and referral to a hospital or clinic when necessary.

There is an old African proverb that we hear quoted often: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. When individual donors accompany researchers, the business sector, institutional funders, and the public sector on the path to impact, they reach one of the most rewarding destinations –saving a child’s life.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 13, 2012 12:07 pm

    I love the quote! “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

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