Media and Aid

by Diana Saverin

When the urge to donate money to charity strikes, images of global poverty, famine, and health issues often arise. This is a justified phenomenon; these issues are as tangible as the computer screen you are looking at, but how can you put your dollar to the most work? UNICEF does a fantastic job of dissipating donor concerns over where their money is going on their “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” boxes by putting statistics such as “$45 provides school supplies for 20 kids, $112 provides emergency blankets for 37 kids, $200 immunizes 104 kids against measles.” These numbers reassure the donor that he or she is truly helping, but what about the causes that don’t lend that warm feeling?

Enter a crucial element of the infrastructure of any organization: media. It may not directly save lives, but it allows organizations to raise money and awareness. Organizations aiming to help women have especially struggled in this area, and need to improve the public relations of their organizations more than ever with the changing tides of technology. Media and PR receive around 2% of the money donated to infrastructure, which is only 1.8% of the total amount donated to women annually. If these organizations had the resources to tap into mainstream media to publish articles about their projects, the effects on donations could make a true difference. The National Council for Research on Women has published several groundbreaking reports, with little to no media attention. Two sisters discovered their wealth when they saw their names listed as the 500 richest Americans, and went on to create “Women Moving Millions,” which has over $150 million pledged to give back to women, but most haven’t heard of it. Right now, for every development dollar spent, girls receive less than 2 cents. Media is a crucial component for an organization to survive. It may not immunize a child, it may not be inspiring, and it may not evoke the same emotions as a picture, but it mobilizes the public’s interest in these topics and educates them on the issues at hand.

The recent tragedy in Haiti highlights the efficacy of a successful media campaign. Within two days of the earthquake, over $5 million were raised through texting. The donations have continued to multiply, and are in large part due to the strong technology and media resources employed by the American Red Cross. If women’s organizations could capitalize on the efficiency of media and technology to affect change, using a strong and accessible model like the American Red Cross so successfully did, the implications for women around the world would make history.

The infrastructure of an organization matters almost as much as the services they provide, and for a donor to make a difference, she has to look to see beyond the statistics to what is truly needed.

Diana Saverin is a freshman in Berkeley College.

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Filed under activism, disaster relief, foreign aid, Latin America, media

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