I talk about One Million Shirts, which was a very misguided effort to donate $1 and a t-shirt to Africa in an undifferentiated way.
I’m sure Denver Broncos Super Bowl champions t-shirts are probably on a container ship headed for some poor country right now. If I could urge anyone to do anything about this economy…
Sending gift in kind privileges the things you have laying around. It privileges your experiences, your convenience, much more than the intended recipients. This is why I don’t like or condone the model of Tom’s Shoes as well, because the problem is not lack of shoes in a poor community. The problem is lack of jobs, lack of stability, lack of the ability to plan, based on the poverty that might drive someone who ought to have shoes.
With respect to making these kind of donations - it just doesn’t reflect any choice or any agency on the part of the person who might be receiving it. And if it’s about you and about your brand being differentiated by the existence of poverty? Avoid that.
The textile industry in West Africa, to limit the example: 15 - 20 years ago there was a comparatively robust textile industry. Mali is a large producer of cotton, and yet the country has not manufactured a single t-shirt in years, in part because the flood of imports - the Denver Bronco t-shirts - tend to crowd out this existing economy. Which is an unfortunate turn of events, given that the thing that people might really want is the job that would allow them to make a shirt or to make shoes, rather than the t-shirt or the shoes themselves.