The library has recently purchased a copy of The most good you can do, a long overdue book about effective charity. The book delves into both the goal of the spending and the efficiency of recipient organisations in achieving this goal. This is relevant to schools primarily because students are often raising money and this money should be used effectively (and the students should be taught how to make these decisions). It is also relevant because we are evidence-based institutions who employ pedagogical initiatives based on this evidence and should apply this equally to our other endeavours.
What should we be raising money for?
If someone is blind and barefooted and you can buy them shoes, that would have a positive effect on the person’s life. If you could alternatively give the same amount of money and restore the person’s sight, that would have a much greater effect on that person’s life. While giving the person shoes would be good, giving to restore sight would be better.
Similarly, spending an hour inexpertly making the barefooted person a pair of shoes would be a worse use of time than spending an hour collecting money to buy the person some shoes (which would also benefit the shoe vendor).
In schools we frequently choose making the shoes over buying the shoes and giving shoes instead of sight. As a result, all of the money raised in schools by students makes less impact than it could. How can we change this? The answer is to do what we do when we are implementing curriculum change.
Who should we give it to?
We would never make a change to the curriculum without evidence to support the change. We ask what the change would require and what benefit it would be. And we compare the benefit of different changes and implement the ones that make the most benefit.
Our fundraising should be the same.
Charities supported by schools should have a proven track-record in making people’s lives better. Money should be aimed at primary problems rather than secondary ones. Sending text books to under-resourced schools is helpful but sending money for them to buy their own books is better – the books could be curriculum appropriate and the spending supports the local economy. Even better is supporting health initiatives that get kids to school in the first place.
Charities should be held up to the same standards as schools – we should expect value-for-money and evidence that they are working. There are a range of websites to help decide which charities to support based on these criteria. One such website is GiveWell. Send your students there too.