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It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it!

All charity donors will have one assumes some level of interest in how the funds they give to a charity are used. As stated in an earlier blog the question of such application (“focus, focus, focus”) is often the key determinant for me in making initial charity choices and additional donations to those chosen charities. The core issue of how funds are used in getting most value and maximum beneficial impact for the charity and their donors may seem a very complex one to answer when asked. However as explained in a recent US magazine article (“The Rwanda Cure” by Robert Langreath (Forbes – October 29th 2007)), the applying of some simple concepts in execution can bring very major benefits and rewards in delivering charitable benefits and best use of funds.

This article drives home some very simple but major home truths especially in relation to Africa, that it isn’t just about pouring major sums of money in. While the focus in the media is often on headline grabbing major cures being needed in controlling HIV, malaria and other killers, the major issue is often not new technology but simply better logistics. Many practical and cheap solutions already exist such as the million annual malaria deaths which could be dramatically reduced by provision of $5 mosquito bed nets; the 1.6 million deaths per year from severe diarrhea could be prevented by use of 25 cents oral rehydration fluid treatments;and $1 antibiotics could cure many of the 1.8 million deaths per annum from bacterial pneumonia. So what is the problem? Sadly the simple fact that while these solutions exist they are not being applied or easily made available, especially given much of Africa’s population lives in rural villages and not near clinics. The article using an example in Rwanda shows how simple investments in a skeletal health system with recruiting of nurses not doctors, and no high tech equipment except a few microscopes and use of simple, cheap and generic treatments can have dramatic results. As one expert states, “In the real world money and technology is 5% of the solution; 95% is implementation”.

How does this impact when making one’s charitable donations especially where overseas activities are involved? Many charities would I am sure state they are limited in what they can do, not least because of funds constraints. However what I believe this article underlines for me, is why one should support charities that operate in Africa and similar regions, on health or social issues that are often hard to relate to from the comfort of the UK, but can show they are alert to and communicating this awareness of logistics and execution of delivery in what they do and how they use funds donated.

Examples such as Lepra in tackling leprosy; Sightsavers International in tackling river blindness and cataracts; and Womankind in partnering with others to help disadvantaged women exercise their rights and independence are charities I already donate to but on rechecking score highly in this regard. All these charities have for some time shown how by following a micro economy approach in coverage at a village or community level or by mobile treatment and operating theatres, they can apply cheap preventive treatment or implement practical solutions at little cost. Sightsavers website stating river blindness has a 5 pence cure or it only costs £17 for a cataract operation to avoid blindness is indicative of a very simple communication strategy that evidences this awareness well.

Suffice to say that applying this filter and charities communicating their awareness of it in how they operate in showing “value for money”, will be important for me in deciding levels of donations to such charities going forward.

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