It might be neat if after reading this, readers talk about their choices and how they came to them. I think it would be interesting to hear — and learn — from others.
A D-world friend called me recently with an interesting question: how do you choose what charity to support? How do you know that the place you choose to give your time, support, advocacy and dollars is the “right” one?
And it got me thinking: really, the choices in the D-world are multiple, and very few are “wrong.”
Let me explain how I came to be a JDRF supporter. Because really, it was part by chance and part by study.
I’ve already detailed in this blog how I came to know JDRF in the first place. But I didn’t run home that night and just blindly send my allegiance their way. Since I’ve been in the work force since I was 14, I decided to do what I’d do if I was looking to take a job somewhere: research who they are, what they do, how they do it and how I feel about all that. At that time (gosh . . . almost 14 years ago now), I was very attracted to a few specific thing about JDRF. First, while I totally understood the need for daily support and education, I was far enough into D-life to understand the solution to all of it would be a cure (I’ll discuss later how in some ways that can shift over time with D in your life). I wanted to help bring awareness and funding to researchers who were working toward curing my child. To me, at that time, JDRF was the strongest and most efficient engine churning toward that cure.
Second, while I was able to bring in a lot of money (our walk team raised well over $20k annually; I bought $8k worth of gala tickets each year and invited friends I knew would hold up their paddles, and I know a lot of people out there in the world), I was not – at that time – anyone who would be able to write a giant check at the drop of a hat. So I liked that JDRF was an organization of doers, door openers and donors, all on the same playing field. I knew I could make a difference and I knew I would be respected. Understanding all that, I found my home.
My daughter received beyond amazing care at Children’s Hospital in Boston but that just never clicked for me at that time. Part might have been because, gosh, I never even got so much as a newsletter from them letting me know what they were doing (I did leave a message once that I’d like to play in their charity tennis tourney but never heard back). But quite frankly, I felt like – for the most part – insurance pays for daily care. (I know . . . they come out short and we patient families needs lots of time but I still felt the cure was my passion). So I kind of had Children’s on my list of “once there is a cure I will so totally make it up to this place.”
I also served on the board of Lauren’s diabetes camp – the Clara Barton Camp for Girls With Diabetes. Camp was an absolute savior to Lauren – and our entire family. There she found friends who got it, a place she belonged and a world she thrived in. And while she was there, I was able to take a break without worry and let my non D-daughter get all the extra attention. I’m no longer on the board but on my list of “dreams” is to be able to some day just drop them a huge check to build a cabin . . . or fund a bunch of campers who could not afford it. I very much saw camp as the “bridge to the cure” that would help us along.
I love the support work the ADA does and I’m thankful to those who do for them. But again, I’ve chosen to be cure based.
So that’s my reason I chose what I did at the time. Lately, I’ve been thinking of others. Because really, few reason are wrong. That’s why I could not just tell that mom “do as I do.” Your charitable choices are as unique as we are as people.
But I do think there are some basic points I’d suggest.
*Make sure the charity you choose uses its money wisely. How much of what they raise goes toward actual research or programs as opposed to overhead? For me, this is crucial not only for my own peace of mind but for the people I ask to donate to my charity of choice. I owe it to my friends and donors to do the research for them and be able to look them in the eye and say “This really is making a difference.”
*Be forthright and open with the charity you choose about what kind of person you are and how you’d like to serve them and interact with them. I’m always going to be a doer, no matter if I am at the point where I now can write bigger checks. For me, a charity that does not want any “hands on” help won’t work for me. Nor will one that will not listen to different views. Note here I don’t say “change because of opposing views.” I just need a place that listens with respect to all kinds of ideas (even if we volunteers drive them crazy sometimes).
*We wary of people starting their own new charity. I’m not saying it’s not the best thing ever but ask them: are you drawing any kind of pay or expense fees for what you are doing? And also, what are you doing that is not already being done well by other groups? To me, new tracks being set down are fantastic. But if they are just heading in the very same direction, why not put your effort toward going farther, rather than going the same distance side by side? Innovation is fantastic and sometimes a person has to create an entirely new program to get there. Just makes sure it really is new and really is dynamic.
At the end of the day, giving and doing are as much for ourselves as it is for others
. Diabetes is a rough road, one that tosses us and scares us and beats us down from time to time. I’ve always found that doing for others pays back to me multi-fold. If the organization you choose does that for you and your loved ones with diabetes, it’s all good.
There’s plenty of room for lots of D-related causes out here. And it’s hard to make a bad choice. But do take care, study and choose wisely. Just remember: you’re choosing for you. And each of us are our own person.
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