Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Global Giving Hurts Local Economies

I support donating something to help someone out. I do, I really do, but I find fault in many of the people who do it. Too many people seem to be more concerned with helping people in Africa, or China, or Mexico, but forget that there are homeless people and starving children right here in the good ol' US of A.

Part of the reason so many local businesses are suffering is because people are shopping at national companies. Charitable organizations have the same problems.

Take blood donation groups, for example. There are three that I know of, just here in Chicagoland: Lifesource, Heartland, and Red Cross. All three are not-for-profit organizations, but only one of them keeps your blood local, because it has signed contracts with local hospitals. That one is Heartland. People in Chicagoland will still prefer to donate with the other two, for personal convenience. But if they go to a local hospital that's in Chicagoland and outside of Chicago, chances are, the blood they receive comes from Heartland.

Take shopping, for another. There are so many places you can go to get your groceries, from local grocer's markets to Wal-Mart, Meijer, and Jewel. If you spend your money at Wal-Mart, it may cost you less, but the money doesn't stay here and benefit the local economy: it goes out of state (unless you live in Arkansas). Spend more money for a local farmer and the money stays local: they'll spend it again and that same money will benefit the local economy a second time.

The more local spending we do, the more people the money benefits, and the more likely the money will come back around and benefit the original spender all over again.

Every once in a while, you'll come across a dollar bill with something stamped on it, like "Where's George." There are websites that, using the serial numbers on your bills, track the journeys they make across you neighborhood and around the country. The more stops that bill takes along the way, the more people it has helped, and the smaller those leaps are, the more local economies it has benefited. Those websites show nothing like the whole picture, because so few people visit them, but they do make a fairly decent illustration.

I encourage people to donate their time, blood, and/or money, but I ask that you do your homework first and find out where your resources are going, and whether or not they might be better spent closer to home.