Insights & Advice


I got a Rat for Father’s Day

The next time you run out of ideas for that perfect gift, save this column. I am about to give you over 200 one of a kind gift ideas that will cost you only as much as you want to spend and at the same time make anyone happy. Global Giving beats the heck out of giving your old man that gift set of Old Spice or your brother a gift card from Amazon.

Birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and maybe a half dozen other holidays a year require that we send someone a gift or at least a card. If you are like me, you’ve been conditioned to give, give, give through billions of dollars worth of marketing and advertising as a way of showing our love and appreciation. We scurry through the stores and catalogues to find a gift, sometimes any gift and gift giving means big money. Almost $10 billion alone, for example, was spent on gifts for fathers in America last month on Father’s Day and it’s not even the biggest gift giving event of the year.

Given that I am a notoriously difficult person to buy a gift for, the message from my daughter that popped up in my e-mail on Father’s Day morning really caught my attention.

“A Global Giving Gift Card for Bill from Jackie,” it read.

Jackie is my daughter so I immediately clicked on this missive and read the following:
“Happy Father’s Day, Dad, in lieu of a tie you won’t wear or a cookbook you probably already have, please use this gift card to support a project. Love, Jackie.”

Intrigued, I clicked on the attached web site——and was immediately captivated by both the idea and the simplicity of the organization. Global Giving, I discovered, is an online marketplace that connects you, the donor, to a whole host of causes and countries throughout the world.

Scrolling through their list of countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe I was immersed in one fascinating project after another. These projects would tug on the heartstrings of even the most callous and cynical observer. Children, animals, climate change, disaster recovery, human rights, health, women and girls, technology; the list of causes goes on and on. My daughter, in her own name, contributed to a project in India which provides clean water for drought-affected families as well as a program to establish and support models schools in Afghanistan.

Each project provides the background of the project, biographies of those who run the projects, where each is located and a wealth of information on the people the project is helping. There are also updates and a running total of contributions to date.

The Global Giving Foundation is a 501(C) 3 registered non-profit corporation founded by two former World Bank executives Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle. The Foundation uses 15% of your tax-deductible contribution to help cover the costs of operating the internet marketplace, finding and researching projects, supporting project leaders in the field, attracting donors and building their website. That is a far lower percentage than most charities spend in covering overhead and administrative expenses.

So what project, you might ask, did I pick for my contribution? Well, I split my gift with the lion’s share going to HeroRATS, a project run by an organization called APOPO, based in Belgium, whose founder and director, Bart Weetjens, lives in Tanzania. As many of my readers are aware, I have a deep attachment to Africa where I have travelled and conducted business for over 25 years.

APOPO trains large rats to sniff out landmines in Mozambique. Twenty-eight HeroRATS and their human partners are deployed in that country’s abandoned and highly treacherous mine fields. The rats can find this deadly ordinance faster, more efficiently and with more far more safety then high-priced mine detectors since the rats are too light to set off the mines as they scurry among them. But that’s not all.

These rats do double duty. In Tanzania (where my wife and I were married) HeroRATS are trained to detect cases of tuberculosis. The rats are trained to sniff samples of sputum from suspected victims of this horrible and highly contagious disease. So far they have identified 905 patients that were missed in traditional screening by local hospitals. Once again the rats beat out modern technology (in this case, technician with microscopes). The humans can screen about 40 patient samples daily while rats can do that many in seven minutes.

As a self-confessed animal lover and a Vietnam Veteran, I gave a donation to help feed 140 orphaned chimpanzees and the final third of my contribution to helping U.S. war vets suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are beginning to heal with the help of shelter dogs who visit with them. My money will go to help feed and shelter some of these animals that would normally be euthanized.

I have picked those projects which have inspired me personally. There are plenty more to choose from among the hundreds of projects Global Giving offers in over 100 countries. As for my Father’s Day present, it was a gift that I will remember for a long, long time and think of my daughter every time I do. So the next time you feel the need to give a gift but don’t know what to get, remember Global Giving. It can turn a sometimes daunting task into something worthwhile and rewarding and its tax deductible as well.

Posted in Financial Planning, Portfolio Advice, The Retired Advisor