One-for-one campaigns are pretty trendy, but do they work?
Take TOMS shoes for example. TOMS has done a lot of great work over the years by sending shoes to help kids in developing countries. It’s a pretty cool deal—you buy a pair of fashionable shoes for yourself and TOMS sends another pair to a child in a developing county.
However, some people are wondering whether one-for-ones are actually doing good. Is it possible that giving shoes to kids in need is actually hurting more than helping?
Does providing shoes for families in need actually create a culture of dependency? Or is it possible that giving shoes away is unintentionally taking business from the local economy?
These are important questions, for sure. So important TOMS hired an independent researcher to find the answers.
And what they found is fascinating.
The Independent study’s results show that most kids wore their TOMS shoes every day and spent more time outside, but they also spent less time doing homework and were more likely to believe that others should provide for their families.
The good news is that 95% of the kids in El Salvador had a favorable impression of the shoes, and they wore them heavily: 77% of the children wore them at least 3 days per week, and the most common response by children was wearing them every day. So the notion that kids get these donated shoes and throw them in the dumpster simply isn’t borne out by the evidence.
So kids love their shoes, but they’re not necessarily making a lasting impact on their lives. In short, snazzy footwear won’t eradicate global poverty issues, but it’s also not doing excessive damage.
The bad news is that there is no evidence that the shoes exhibit any kind of life-changing impact, except for potentially making them feel somewhat more reliant on external aid… The most negative finding was that the children receiving the shoes were significantly more likely to agree with the statement that “others should provide for my family’s needs” and less likely to say that “my family should provide for its own needs.”
A Forbes contributor writes, “Mycoskie, to his credit, has admitted that his critics were right, and has since tried to support activities that better alleviate poverty, including launching shoe manufacturing operations in Haiti, staffed by locals. Small steps, better outcomes.”
To TOMS’ credit, they initiated an independent audit and they followed up with positive course corrections to help developing countries address poverty on a deeper level.
So, do one-for-one campaigns really fight poverty? Well, they don’t eradicate it but they do have potential to make a difference—even if it’s just a small one at times.
As followers of Christ it’s good to think critically about who we partner with to help those in need.
It’s also good to actually take action and do SOMETHING. Whether it’s sponsoring a child, funding a micro-loan or education program or simply buying a pair of TOMS.
Maybe it’s time to do a little personal audit on your own life, like TOMS did, to find out where and how your giving is really making an impact—and how to improve it.
Because it’s true, our bank accounts and planners mirror our hearts.
What does your spending say about your values and passions?