This Advent, we are profiling four organizations that we think deserve serious consideration for your holiday giving. Surprisingly, it’s not all that easy to find a worthy cause. I think all of us who have ever made a charitable donation have wondered if our money is being used effectively. From the dollar we give to the homeless guy to the online contributions we send to big relief organizations after disaster, how do we know if the sacrifice of our hard-earned money really helps those who need it most?
This difficulty is compounded if we want to direct resources toward the nearly half the planet who live on less than $2 a day. Most of us live too far from this reality to really tell if the money we give to some organization is impactful.
That’s why for nearly ten years, every time I meet an economic development professional who actually works on the field, I ask them about which organizations they most recommend. Within the realm of Christian non-profits, the name that most frequently comes up is Mennonite Central Committee. I know that my inquiries are purely anecdotal and from a fairly small sample size, but I’ve been impressed at the level of universal admiration I’ve heard from practitioners of other organizations.
MCC works in the all the usual fields of development: education, emergency relief, AIDS, clean water, fair trade, etc. But they are best known for their excellence in rural, agricultural development, with their workers typically living in the countryside alongside local farmers. Personally, I like their approach to spirituality. They are a very explicitly Christian organization, and seek to share their faith through their work, but it seems to me that they emphasize more the demonstration of their faith, as opposed to the “preach and go” style of many Christian groups. They also emphasize peacemaking—a reflection of their Mennonite pacifism.
Among the general public, MCC is less well known—but that’s partly because they spend far less money on advertising and promotion than nearly all the other big organizations. Again, this is a reflection of their Mennonite ethos. I’ve rarely found an organizational commitment to simple living that matches MCC’s. I like that also because I know that more of my money is making an impact.
MCC is one of the four organizations we are considering supporting as part of our Just Giving Challenge. The week before Christmas, the readers of this blog will vote on which one they liked best, and our donation will go there!
If you want to know more about the MCC, check out their 2010 annual report video here.