4/10/09

Non-Profits

I have worked in and around the non-profit world for a long time. My experience handling donor dollars and investing them has proven to challenge my confidence in the intentions and usefulness of donations.

When a donor gives, I wonder how many of them give after researching the use and intent of their money. Do they look at the mission statement of an organization? The overhead rate? The accomplishments? The yearly commitments? Or does the donor simply find a place to drop a $1.00 and walk away feeling good about that donation?

I have recently had to ask myself this question because I see things that disturb me. Let's say organization A has a particular mission statement. They are specfic in their intentions yet they have volunteers who are so enthusiastic about assisting. There is a catch to the volunteerism however. The volunteer wants to assist and make the mission more "personal" - more about what the volunteer sees personally fulfilling and beneficial. Organization A says "O.k....as long as the dollars go into MY bucket - go ahead." And what follows is a diversion from the original premise of the non-profit - a diversion of funds, concntration and efforts from the original premise. The volunteer is excited, they keep on working their own personal plan for this non-profit. Meanwhile funds from donors are diverted - in the midst of the excitement - from other non-profits more specifically designed to accomplish the mission of the volunteer but less willing to allow the volunteer to have a commanding role in the program. The money becomes confused, dilluted and lost in the attempt to accomplish objectives not clearly part of the program of Organization A - thus the needy suffer - the needy programs suffer and waste results.

It happens all the time. We want to feel good about giving but we don't want to work at stewardship of our donations. The Non-profits themselves are driven by goals and monetary initiatives. They get lost in the definition of what the intentions of donors are as well as the intentions for which they originally set up the organization. They end up competing with other non-profits for donor dollars and volunteer participation. They fail... They fail the donors, the intended recipients and their own mission. They simply fail.

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