Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (and How to Reverse it)

by Robert D. Lupton. HarperOne, 2011.
Large toxic charity

Robert Lupton is founder and director of FCS Urban Ministries (Focused Community Strategies) in Atlanta, which he has led for four decades. This popular book addresses a fundamental concern Lupton has discovered: charities often hurt the very persons they hope to help and charitable funds are wasted. Roughly 90% of U.S. adults give to or work to help those in need, according to Lupton. The result can make things worse, rather than better, by creating dependency and destroying personal initiative. For instance, many mission trips do more good for those who participate in them than those served. What’s needed is a shift from relief to the spiritual discipline of compassion. True compassion practices sustainable empowerment through employment, lending, personal relationship building, and the reinforcement of achievement. This requires a genuine shift of focus to the real needs of those being served by listening carefully to what is said and what is not being said by those served. Chapters in the book provide clues to wise giving, recommendations for a new model for charitable groups, and recommendations for getting started.