To be honest, this blog started out to be about a different topic. I planned to write about a provocative conversation started by one of my contacts on Linked In last fall, but after reviewing the comments, one really stood out, so I am inspired to write about it instead.
When it comes to social services, there are basically two schools of thought. First, there are those with programs that serve an immediate need, like feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and providing assistance to victims in emergency situations. These organizations give short term relief with food boxes, utility assistance, shelter for the cold nights, etc. In this current economy, with so many out of work due to outsourcing of jobs to other countries, the financial mess created by the mortgage fiasco, and the soaring cost of medical care, and natural disasters like hurricanes, there are many who need the immediate assistance that social services agencies provide.
Then there are the organizations that look at the long term problems for a way to find answers to lessen the future immediate needs. There are groups that provide education and job training so people can learn support themselves, counseling to those who have suffered long term abuse or addiction so they can overcome feelings of hopelessness and find strength to go on, or financial skills training so they can have the tools to take responsibility for their long term monetary well being. These groups work to provide long term solutions to problems.
Some might categorize the first type of assistance as handouts, and the second as hand-ups. The old saying “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” comes to mind. Each type of service is important.
The question is which do you choose to support? Do you give your money for short term assistance or do you support a program with far reaching goals of independence?
Some emergency service organizations tell those they serve that they can get help for a short duration, and I think that is important that they let them know that at the beginning. Clients need to know that they cannot come to rely on long term assistance.
As a donor, imagine that you are a triage nurse. Will you put a bandage on a wound for immediate treatment or will you seek a long term cure to prevent a repeat visit to the hospital? Which will you choose? What is your priority?