Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Joan Harrington (@SocSectorEthics), director of social sector ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Views are her own.
After the murder of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the town of Newtown, Connecticut was inundated with stuffed animals.
Good hearted people, feeling the pain over such senseless violence and the loss of children, sent 65,000 teddy bears to Newtown, a town of 27,000 people.
People who can afford to give something, to donate in response to a crisis such as the slaughter of children and teachers in Uvalde, need to step back and think about the reality of the situation. Donors need to think less about their own needs and contemplate both the short term and the long lasting needs of the community. They need to think about how to prevent the next slaughter of children in our schools. They need to think about which organizations are best situated to make change and then they need to give as generously as possible. They need to practice ethical giving.
We can’t afford to give donors a pass on this and many donors aren’t asking for one. But some view any gift as something that the rest of us should be grateful for, that merits respect and a thank you, and depending on the size of the gift, maybe more.
We should be most grateful for the community that will work so hard to heal, to the nonprofits that will work so hard to help them, and the religious organizations and churches that will comfort them. And we should be grateful to the organizations that work so tirelessly to try to prevent the next mass shooting through education and activism. We should focus our respect on them, and say thank you to them.
Donors can practice ethical giving by thinking deeply about their giving. They should ask themselves: what nonprofit activities interest me and what philosophy of giving am I drawn to? Am I interested in making policy changes, do I want to respond to the immediate crisis, or am I trying to make a long term difference in the lives of the victim’s families and their community? The answer to these questions and other reflections will help donors choose the right nonprofits for their gifts and to make donations that will be meaningful to the donor.
Most importantly, these gifts will address public policy issues on guns and will provide short and long term services to the people who need real help, far beyond a well-intentioned gift of a teddy bear.