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Why I give directly: Reaching someone a world away

After hearing from Beverly Archer on one of our open conference calls, we asked her to share her perspective on why she gives directly. Here she describes her search for a better way to help. 


When I was a very little girl, I saw a picture of emaciated children in a magazine. It frightened and confused me. Who were these children? Why didn’t someone feed them? That night, while watching my mother pack up dinner leftovers I was struck by a brilliant notion. Let’s send our leftovers to those kids! It seemed perfectly reasonable to me.

As a teenager, I pulled a child’s name from a mall Christmas tree and donated the requested toy. I felt I had given a gift to a young friend. I found out the tree was simply a marketing strategy, and my personal gift would go to a child of appropriate age and gender, not necessarily to the specific child whose name I pulled. I didn’t begrudge the donation but it bothered me that the children would receive some generic present rather than one they wanted.

As an adult, the notion of giving direct aid has remained elusive. The fact that I now better understand the challenges and complexities facing nonprofits has not assuaged the frustration born long ago. So, it was perhaps inevitable that an NGO with the name GiveDirectly would capture my attention. Their expanded version of my youthful “brilliant notion”, sending cash directly to someone a world away, holds enormous appeal for me.

In my perfect world, a person in need tells me exactly what they require and I provide the cash for them to buy it. In a more realistic world, GiveDirectly brings me near to that ideal for the simple reason that the recipient gets the cash without any controlling, paternalistic strings attached. They get the gift they want. And so, finally, do I.

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Beverly Archer was born in Illinois and raised in Southern California, schooled there and continues to live in the Pasadena area. She worked in television for 25 years and is best known for her roles as Iola Boylan on the television series Mama’s Family and Gunny Bricker on Major Dad. Beverly retired from acting in 2003 and is pursuing an avocation of sculpting in clay along with travel and volunteering locally.