Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Challenging Buy-One-Give-One Charity

Challenging Buy-One-Give-One Charity

Global Content Strategist

People like to help other people. It makes us feel good to donate to charity, to sign a petition for an important cause, or to purchase a buy-one-give-one product. Many charities have a positive impact; however, in some instances, organizations mismanage donations. That's why it's so important to research any charity before giving so that you can make an informed decision as to where to direct your attention.


One of the latest trends in giving is the buy-one-give-one business model. Companies, such as TOMS and SOAPBOX, have built their success and public image on the promotion of their philanthropic model. The idea is that when you buy a particular product, the same item is given to a person in need-such as shoes in the case of TOMS. I own several pairs of TOMS and will admit to feeling good as I imagine an individual across the world wearing a pair thanks to my purchase.


 With that said, let's take a closer look at this model, which, while being celebrated by some, also has opponents. As mentioned, most of us like to think of ourselves as nice and kind people. We help. We give to charity. However, do we ever truly ask ourselves why we help and why we give? The opponents of the buy-one-give-one model shed some (not so flattering) light on a worldview that suggests there are two types of people: the righteous who seek to help and the poor desperately awaiting the help. Critics ask if the underlying mindset is that the poor are less virtuous because they do not have enough to give others.


But setting aside scrutiny of what may be subconscious motivations for how and why people donate everything from time to money to shoes, the bigger question is, do these models achieve their goals? Do they make a difference to the people the effort targets? If a pair of shoes is donated thanks to my purchase, is the recipient's life actually better? Does the donation address the actual problem? For instance, there is evidence that shoe donations like the ones started by TOMS might not be helping children in need. Instead, sometimes the shoes are given to children who don't have a critical need for shoes; sometimes the fabric the shoes are made of may not be appropriate (e.g., the fabric does not work for a rainy climate).  A donated pair of shoes may turn into a wasted pair of shoes.

Giving tangible assets has been accused of being the same as putting a BAND-AID on a deep gash. It's a short-term fix for a long-term, complicated economic problem, which may contribute to why such an easy solution is appealing to us. We don't have to think about it or try to research political and economic climates. It's less stress. The local business impact of Buy-One-Give-One can even deepen the gash by creating an aid-based economy that cannot sustain itself.

There is more unknown than known and more questions than answers about the buy-one-give-one model. But it's likely to remain popular and as such, it's essential that we challenge ourselves to look beyond the obvious and take time to check how our actions affect the world around us. 


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