Donate in the Know
When you become involved with a charity, do your homework.
By Tom Karlya
February 2007 — You spend all of your time and your efforts raising money for an entity that you support, one where philosophies are in line with what you agree they should be to further the diabetes cause.
Or are they?
I recently spoke with someone and I asked them why they were involved with a particular diabetes charity. Their answer sent me on a mini-investigation that holds absolutely no scientifically statistical significance whatsoever, but it did make me think. The person said they really weren't sure where the money went, exactly. They just knew that their child enjoyed doing the fundraiser, it was close to their home, and they assumed that since the charity was around for a while that they did good things for diabetes.
I asked a few more people who were active in different diabetes charities the same question, and received answers that were very similar. My observations are based merely upon a few conversations, but it seems that people who raise money in events by collecting it from others are less familiar with the spending of the money than those who gave a substantial amount in a personal check. In fact, many people never even asked for an annual report from the charity they support. Those who invested personal resources knew much more about the entity they supported. Many who were actively involved did much more homework than those who were involved "because the charity was conveniently located." Involved because it was conveniently located?! My, my, my.
Whatever makes you happy is up to you, but it seems to me that if we in the diabetes community are helping an entity (via time and/or money) we should be aware of how our resources are used. Don't you think?
I will never forget the time I was at a conference and a mom said to me that she was too busy to investigate how the money that she raised was used, She stated that I did not know what it was like to have two young children, one with diabetes. She was right, but I do remember when my three kids were 2 months old, 5 ½ and 8 ½, and I would come home from New York City after one of my performances to see my wife Jill, fast asleep among brochures, articles, and information about various diabetes organizations. I spent so much time investigating many diabetes charities, and so did Jill. It's too important to ignore.
I think the umbrella organizations that fund research are extremely important. Make sure you have a say in where the money goes. Remember that the biggest umbrella organization for diabetes research is none other than the United States Government. That's right - the NIH probably spends more on diabetes research in one year than all of the other foundations and organizations combined. Do you ask how your tax dollars are spent on diabetes research? Rarely. If you do not ask major organizations how they spend YOUR money, you are treating it the same as those who take your tax dollars and allot your money. Scary, isn't it?
My point is two fold. Number one is that there are fantastic institutions out there that you should look into. The Diabetes Research Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, Dr. Denise Faustman's work at MGH, The Barbara Davis Center, and many more. Find out about them, GO VISIT them, and ask questions. Know that many of the umbrella organizations fund the work in these centers, so make sure you are educated as to where your money goes. Is it better to support entities directly?
Number two: People spend a good deal of time investigating where their child will go to college because of the investment of time and money. Sad but true that your diabetes investment will probably be much longer, and in some cases backed more extensively financially, in the place you trust to cure your child than the place who will educate your child. Sadly, so many know so little about where all of their money goes.
I have talked about this man before, but clearly, to me, there is no one better at raising funds in the diabetes community than Bob Pearlman of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation out of Miami. Their work speaks for itself. You cannot be involved with the DRI as fully as you need to be unless you tour the facility. They have a pretty impressive way to run a shop. Where else are people saying to come, touch, feel, and ask questions to those who are doing the work. If your charity can't or doesn't do it proportionately as much as they should - demand it or move on.
Bob also has a fun saying that proves a point - "You know why people rob banks … because that's where the money is." Where is the research? Let me change that statement to "Do you know where your money is?" If your answer is anything but the fact that YOU KNOW how your charity is utilizing your resources, find somewhere better. I'm a diabetes dad.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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