Just read Amy Sherman’s review from late 2011 of Robert Lupton’s book, Toxic Charity. It’s a question that needs a lot more light. Sherman’s account suggests that Lupton is on the right track with his recommendations to the armies of compassion:
Lupton does offer some ideas for improvement. He proposes a new “Oath for Compassionate Service” for the charity industry to adopt, much as the medical community has adopted the Hippocratic Oath. Lupton’s Oath offers six key guidelines: (1) Never do for the poor what they can do for themselves; (2) Limit one-way giving to emergencies; (3) Empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements; (4) Subordinate self-interest to the needs of those being served; (5) Listen closely to those you seek to help; (6) Above all, do no harm.
Some additional reading on these themes (please add your suggestions in the comments)
David Ellerman, Helping People Help Themselves
Michael Hartman, Helping People to Help Themselves
Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett, John Perkins, When Helping Hurts
Ivan Illich, Toward a History of Needs
And an May 2012 Philanthropy Roundtable Donor Workshop on similar themes