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Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World Paperback – Bargain Price, November 3, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Inspired by the generosity of everyday Americans in the aftermath of 2004's tsunami, Smith, a longtime fund-raiser for nonprofits, winnows through the muddle of hyperbolic language found in fund-raising letters to explain how even the smallest, seemingly insignificant gifts to charitable organizations can make huge differences. Sobering statistics address the four critical issues of hunger, health, education and access to tools, technology and infrastructure as Smith explains how forgoing an inexpensive luxury just once a week—and donating the corresponding few dollars—can fix a bridge, feed a child or bring clean water to a family, possibly redirecting lives in an entire Third World village or U.S. city. Cultural mythology says that pocket change doesn't make poverty change, but Smith's research proves otherwise: small donations make a difference around the world and at home, and giving is psychologically beneficial to donors. This book occasionally devolves into maudlin appeals, but it is redeemed by its positive premise and practical approach. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Wendy Smith has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years in direct services, program administration, development, consulting and board membership; she is a Certified Fundraising Professional. She also has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in marketing. To write Give a Little and pursue its promotion and mission , she has taken an indefinite leave from her job as the Director of Foundation and Government Relations at Building with Books, an international organization that constructs schools in developing countries and runs youth development programs in the US.
She is lives in Highland Park, Illinois, with her two daughters.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; Original edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401323405
  • ASIN: B003BVK2MG
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,755,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
At first glance, Give a Little, is a book that has a theme of the transformative social effects of cumulative small charitable donations but it also has implications for national policy. I was struck by several aspects.

First, the quality level is high ( it reminded me most of a narrowly focused Malcolm Gladwell book). Give a Little was refashioned from a more academic study with plenty of statistical data into a very readable book for a popular audience. The sense of depth carries through.

Secondly, though I'm certain that the author, Wendy Smith, who spent twenty years in the public/NGO sector wasn't thinking in these terms, the principles behind the humanitarian programs she examines also have the potential to revolutionize foreign aid and economic development policies, breathe life into the "civilian side" of counterinsurgency, focus humanitarian aid, enhance public diplomacy and speed postwar/postcatastrophe reconstruction.

Smith's chapters delve into a variety of the most successful , and at times least well known, programs that have two things in common: first, they are directed at permanently improving the "human capital" or "social capital" of the recipients rather than sustaining a subsistence existence. Secondly, the programs all manage an enormous ROI for every donation due to generating powerful, downstream, "ripple effect" benefits. Cents given today translate into tens or hundreds of dollars of positive outcomes gained and negative costs avoided tomorrow

There are many worthy organizations profiled ( ex. Ounce of Prevention, Bridges to Prosperity etc.) and Smith offers the readers anecdotes that are deeply positive and uplifting narratives of individuals, families and communities transformed by the power of small donations designed to empower the people of the "bottom billion".

A valuable book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When it comes to philanthropy, I am as cynical as you can get. I did not support the victims of the Tsunami or Katrina. Why? I was sure most of my contribution would be diluted by overhead and/or misuse of funds. Yet, I'm not a piker. Historically, I have given generously. I support my alma mater, any friend or relative who hits me up, and charities that support causes/research for subjects that have personally effected me. Do I really do my duediligence? No. Do I really believe my donations make a difference? Not sure. Why do I give then? Because no one can say I don't. Like I said I'm a cynic.

GIVE A LITTLE by Wendy Smith is a game-changer for me. Not only does Ms. Smith debunk the myth that the Bill Gates' of the world are the major donors -- they're not. Every day American families provide almost two-thirds of all donations to charity and those donations are less than $250.00. While there are so many 'good causes' out there, Ms. Smith makes a convincing case that our first dollars should go to ending poverty. Several years ago in Sports Illustrated, Rick Reilly wrote that ten dollars bought a mosquito net and prevented a child from malaria in Africa. Ms. Smith takes this several steps further and shows that saving one child creates a ripple effect that impacts postively not only the child and his or her family, but an entire community. Done often enough the effect can be exponential. In her book, she clearly outlines the causes of poverty and shows how we -- every day ma and pa citizens -- can transform the world thru small donations to dozens of organizations that provide goods as mundane as mosquito nets, water pumps, water filters whose impact ripple.

I challenge you to read GIVE A LITTLE and not come away with a new mindset about your charitable giving. And... not be inspired to give small donations to many of the worthy organizations profiled in her book.

A MUST READ highly recommended by a former cynic.
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So many times I wished I had a reliable source for knowing how to make the most of my donations. I have sent $10.00 here and there to charities that sent me things in the mail that I knew were reputable (thinking, "this is not much - how can this really help...") but with this book it clearly maps out how my "little" can go a long way in making a difference for the better. Smith's book offers the average "Joe" (and Josephine!) an understanding of how much impact small gifts (especially when small gifts are all we can afford right now) can have on other people's lives. I loved the way she mixed in personal analogies with facts and gave lots of resources. I LOVED IT!
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Format: Paperback
Like so many of us, I often wish I could "change the world" but feel overwhelmed by the prospect. How could little old me make a difference? Might as well keep my fingers crossed that some big corporation, or filthy rich celebrity, will take care of it. In "Give A Little", Wendy Smith inspires us with stories of "everyday" people changing the lives of others, one small step at a time. How could a $5 donation really shift anything? Ms. Smith gives detailed and engaging proof that you, yes little old you, can be the catalyst for big change!
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Format: Paperback
For what it tries to say, the book is very well researched. And the book is certainly well intentioned.

My critique is that it is very one-sided and unbalanced, with very rosy glasses examining what is increasingly a marketing machine.

1) Most of programs described are initiated by westerners in developing countries.

2) Most of the programs here have extremely simple interventions (buy someone a goat) and reports extraordinary outcomes (a family out of poverty, forever) through second hand, third hand ... carefully selected and re-calibrated stories. It is not clear that the author had visited any of the places and actually interviewed the people in the stories. It appeared more likely that the author read the project's literature and perhaps interviewed its western executive directors/leadership. For most of the "give us $xxx and we will get a family a goat" ... please know that it is not that simple. The xxx amount never, never goes to the family as is. And the actual % that went to a family, versus the vague "program expense" category, is rarely disclosed.

3) The book avoids any critical examination of the charitable industry, despite the fact that in recent years much valid critique have surfaced.

4) The books advocates, even in the preface, that "remote help" with pocket change is what's needed. Author wrote, "I used to think ... that I had to be hands-on to get the job done. I was naive." This is consistent with the author's advocacy for people to give, and that's admirable. But it is a very western assumption that one can help without ever really having to know, understand, appreciate, and respect the people they are helping.

Still, I applaud the author's intention, research, and advocacy for giving.
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