We’re currently working to find vehicles for donors to fund certain highly appealing program-based interventions. It’s not a simple task, because when dealing with large organizations, it’s rarely clear just how an individual donor’s “drop in the bucket” fits in.
Large organizations like UNICEF run a huge variety of programs – including programs such as iodine fortification (something we’re very positive about) and programs such as water infrastructure construction (which we are less excited about). From conversations with such organizations, we feel that a donor has the following options:
1. Gain confidence in the entire organization by getting a bird’s-eye view of its strategy, priorities, and activities; then give unrestricted.
In my view, this is the ideal way to donate: it means finding a charity that shares your vision (not just one capable of carrying it out) and avoiding micromanagement. However, getting a decent bird’s-eye view of a large international aid organization can be extremely difficult.
2. Mark your donation for a particular ongoing program, or even for a particular piece of a program (as outlined in this post).
This is the possibility most often raised by the organizations we talk to. For example, when asking how a donor could contribute to expanding micronutrient coverage, one organization offered a chance to participate in an existing program that distributes fortified biscuits, such that “each $X could buy one biscuit.”
The drawbacks of this approach are discussed in our earlier post: often such a donation essentially amounts to an unrestricted donation.
3. Fund the entire budget of a large-scale project (for example, bringing iodization to a new region).
This approach involves giving funds in exchange for a new project’s being carried out, giving the donor true control (not just attribution, as in #2). The obvious problem is that it requires enough funds to pay for an entire large-scale project, and is therefore outside the reach of many individual donors.
#3 might become an option if individual donors coordinated with each other, pooling their money to fund a particular sort of project. We are considering trying to facilitate this sort of coordination sometime in the future.
For now, though, we feel that the only way we can satisfactorily answer this question is through approach #1: finding organizations that are either “simple” enough (focusing overwhelmingly on a particular kind of project) or well documented enough that we can understand, and endorse, unrestricted donations to them.