Aid and Donors: Is it a Good Idea for Donors to Have More Of a Say?

by Developed Africa 4. September 2013 09:00

A recent article in the Guardian brought up the case for Philanthropists and Aid donors to work together.

The argument from the article is that philantrhopists cannot just be expected to continue giving money without having any say in where their funds are going and what projects they are supporting. Instead, it argues that there should be a closer relationship, and those providing money and donations should be given a chair at meetings to discuss how to address a certain problem and how best to utilise the money the group has. It also argues that unless things change their is very little incentive for philanthropists to keep donating money:

The message to philanthropists is unappealing: give your money through existing aid channels, desist from running your own programmes, and help drum up support for more taxpayers' money for official donors to spend"

It goes on to argue that despite what many may think, philanthropists do in fact have a lot to contribute, and should be allowed a voice. But it is also important to note that philanthropists really have very little reason to want to work with aid organisations rather than following their own personal projects, because they would get very little say in terms of what is done with the money.

First, there must be joint decision making and shared governance. Official donors cannot expect philanthropic organisations to stump up cash without a seat at the table"

In order to keep receiving their donations, philanthropists must be given a say in what happens to their money, otherwise they will have very little reason to keep donating. On top of this, perhaps it is the best way, to keep everyone working towards the same goal and along the same lines, they need to work together, and create projects together that can make more of a difference that two separate projects would make. 

However, it is possible to argue that by allowing the person who donates the money to a project, who may have very little knowledge on the subject or how aid projects should be approached, it can greatly disrupt the positive impact that project will have. 

The subject of how much say donors should have over the money that they donate is greatly debated. To what extent can you be sure that they understand the situation, and if they start enforcing rules and constraints upon a project, the likelihood of a positive outcome for that project is in jeopardy.

Despite the fact that it makes a lot of sense for aid organisations and philanthropic donors to work together so that projects are a lot more streamlined and centred towards a common goal, giving power to donors is always dangerous territory. By being able to dictate what is done with their money, expert advice and experience may be ignored and replaced by the vision of the donor, and whilst that may sometimes work, more often that not it does not. 

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