Tuesday, November 6, 2007

...And Speaking of Shopping for Charity

Buy Less Crap is encouraging people to donate directly to The Global Fund, Gap's recipient charity from their (Product) Red retail campaign, rather than spending money on clothing as a round-about way to donating to the cause.

Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, an online charity evaluation service, has also recently spoken out about Gap's (Product) Red initiative, and in particular their new (2 Weeks) t-shirt. He points out that this latest campaign, which promises that for every t-shirt purchased, two weeks worth of antiretroviral medication will be supplied to an AIDS sufferer in Africa, will essentially be donating about $5.60 from t-shirts that cost $28 each. By instead donating all $28 of your dollars directly to the Global Fund, you could instead supply 10 weeks worth of medication instead of just two.

This makes economic sense to me.

However, given recent insights into some of the potential motivations behind acts of charity, I wonder if ultimately people would be more likely to buy five (2 Weeks) t-shirts rather than just giving $28 directly to the charity? By buying the t-shirts, the donors have a tangible reminder of their charitable act, something to make them feel good about their actions every time they wear the t-shirts. They could even give the extra t-shirts away to friends or family, making themselves feel even better about their altruism and having a tangible reminder of their good deeds not only when they themselves wear the t-shirts but also when their friends and family members do. Whereas giving directly to the charity once will soon be forgotten. I could be wrong, but if my understanding about "giver's greed" and the neurological effects of giving are at all on target, ultimately the Global Fund could gain more through their alliance with (Product) Red than just by having donors give directly. I'm not sure, I'd have to see more recent actual numbers and, as was mentioned a few months ago in the Beyond Philanthropy blog, not enough time has passed yet to see if this actually will be a viable business model for creating a sustainable source of revenue for a charity.

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