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Opinion | Rethink, research charities before becoming involved

Published: Monday, January 14, 2013

Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013 22:01

Charities like TOMS Shoes are in the business of pairing good intentions with smart business models. TOMS’ one-for-one model promises that for every pair of shoes purchased, another will be donated to a child in need. By equipping children with shoes, TOMS is fighting the risk of soil-borne illness. However, charities like TOMS often come under fire for the negative and unintended consequences of aid. For example, many warn that TOMS Shoes may be harming local economies by reducing the ability for local shoemakers to make a profit and maintain a livelihood.

It can be confusing as a consumer to be inundated with so much information – both positive and negative – about a product you may be interested in buying, especially when it will also affect another person. It is important to remember that many of these messages represent the extremes of a situation, and often this information swings on a pendulum: at first, people may be exceptionally supportive of a charity initiative, and be just as quick and fervent in dismissing it.

The Miami Student editorial board urges consumers to remember not to take things at face value, be it the message of the charity as advertised, or the arguments against it. Do the research – the same research you put into buying groceries, clothes or cars. Find a charity that upholds the same values you support, and use tools like charitynavigator.org to assess how your charity dollars will be spent. Ask questions.

Remember that it is a gift to be able to give back to other people, and that it is a wonderful human trait that urges us to do so. Sometimes it is easy to get swept up in the details, or yanked onto the bandwagon, but the way you choose to give back is your own: whether it is through volunteer efforts, collections or monetary donations for education, awareness, research or aid both foreign or domestic.

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