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  • Writer's pictureThe HUGG Collective

Last week’s blog sparked interesting conversations with some of our supporters. We wanted you to chew on it for a spell and appreciated the feedback!

Today, we will finish up with the final 3 things that are VITAL to know about a non-profit before you donate!

5.How many people are on staff and how does that directly affect your programming?

Non-profit work is tough and no doubt large teams are sometimes needed to ensure that

all aspects of the organization are being handled with excellence. However, just like any company, it is important that efficiency is high and that dollars aren’t being poorly stewarded on excess employees. I personally know non-profits based in the U.S that work overseas and have HUGE U.S staff. What can so many people be doing here day to day for the people they serve overseas? Are they really needed as full time employees? Again, I have to be careful how I phrase this as there are many moving parts to organizations but take a look at the impact--look over their website and pick out a few titles and ask what they do day to day. You aren’t interrogating to be a snoop--you want to make a difference.

6.May I speak to one of your Clients or Long-Standing Donors?

While this one is not always feasible especially if clients are children or located in another part of the world, there are other things you can do. In these cases, you can ask to speak to a like-minded donor. You could ask, “Do you have a long-term donor who is similar to me in demographic? Would he/she be willing to talk to me?” However, if you do have an opportunity to talk to a program participant, a low-key conversation can include questions like the following:

What do you like best about this program?

Is there anything you would change about this program?

How has this work helped you?

If you choose to volunteer prior to donating, you may have the opportunity to work directly with clients and these type of conversations can happen organically over time. In many instances where vulnerable populations are being served, you may not have these type of opportunities. It was through these type of questions that I discovered that nannies in Haitian orphanages were generally disregarded by volunteer groups. They are the mamas to the children we help support and need to be invested in and trained. It seemed silly to come and serve children without empowering the women who care for them everyday. Of course, these questions led to deeper issues and ultimately led to an overhaul of mindset when it comes to overseas missions in general, but that is another blog for another time.

7. What sets you apart from others doing this kind of work?

Non-profits are usually started by passionate people who encounter a desperate need so powerful that they lead the way in alleviating it. I know for me, I was so passionate about giving young Haitian orphans a “handup” that I didn’t take the time to explore if there were already organizations meeting that need. I wanted so badly to help our partners, Grangou, that I jumped off the cliff and built wings as I fell (in the words of Annie Dillard). In our case, it turns out that there weren’t any other social enterprises in Haiti specifically working with young men aging out of orphan care. However, there are many non-profits out there who would do best to join efforts with other organizations already doing the work. I always encourage people who ask me about starting their own nonprofits to take their time and research to see if they can help build up an existing company. That’s why I think it’s important to know what the organization’s niche is--how they are different and why their work is invaluable.

There are 1.8 million non-profits in the United States and 10 million in the world. From trying to cure cancer to trying to protect the earth’s resources, there are plenty of people who need your support so they can gather strength to keep doing the work. However, in this number, there are many organizations who claim to make a big impact when in reality, they are building up a brand. I know these questions might seem like they take up a lot of time and energy but I promise a lot is riding on your investment and I know you want to see a meaningful return.

  • Writer's pictureThe HUGG Collective

How many times have you donated to an organization and wondered if your money was being put to good use? I think we all have that slightly unsettling feeling when we donate because we want to know that our resources are stewarded for maximum effectiveness.

Unfortunately, not all non-profits are created equal and some are downright dishonest about how the funds are distributed. In addition, there are some nonprofits that claim deep impact when in reality they are superficially addressing symptoms rather than applying holistic practices to address deeper issues.

To be clear, these questions are most applicable to nonprofits that serve marginalized, vulnerable and at-risk populations. I recognize that there are non-profits that simply provide short-term needs or that work with animals--some of these questions don’t apply to those type of organizations but they are a guideline of things to consider.

7 Questions to Ask Non-Profits Before You Donate:

  1. What are your short-term/long-term goals?

It’s not always clear in an organization’s mission statement how exactly they serve people. For instance, let’s say you are considering giving to a local after-school mentoring program. You’d want to know who they mentor and why they mentor and how many kids they mentor. How many kids do they hope to mentor by the end of the year? In other words, will your money be used directly to accomplish these goals? Long-term vision is equally important because you learn of the positive change the short-term goals ultimately accomplish in the communities being served. Questions asked include: What do they want to accomplish by mentoring x number of kids this year? What is their hope for those who benefit from their program? Ultimately, sustainability must be factored in because everyone’s hope is that one changed person has the power to change his/her sphere of influence for the better. Good nonprofit work builds people and people build community.

2. How does your organization empower the people you serve?

It’s a tricky thing to bring attention to the needs of people without undermining their dignity or worst-exploiting them. It’s a fine line that many of us manage judiciously--how to draw YOU, the potential donor, to the stories of the people we serve without making them look like, well...a charity case. While I could write an entire blog on this concept for now I will say this: It is NEVER okay to expose people’s deficits for the sake of getting money to help them. A question I ask myself: “Is this how I would want my child/mother/friend/husband talked about or treated?” “If my child were an orphan, would I want hundreds of visitors to hold her every year so that people could be motivated to help her?” If my teenager needed mentoring, would I want her list of infractions and failures to circulate through church groups so someone could help her?” NO. Nonprofits that serve people should build up their self-agency and equip them in a way that sets them up for success. They aren’t our pet projects--they are PEOPLE created in the image of God.

3. What percentage of your Program Budget goes towards Marketing/Communications/Salary?

Social marketing, print collateral and strong branding are important if we are going to get people’s attention. In fact, a robust marketing budget is critical if a non-profit seeks to break beyond a mere existence and aim for healthy growth, but it should not exceed 15% of an organization’s Programming budget. According to the BBB, at least 65 percent of the nonprofit’s total expenses should be for program expenses, including salaries (and marketing). The nonprofit’s total expenses should not include more than 35 percent for fundraising.

In other words, make sure the nonprofit you support isn’t mostly fluffy feel goods with superficial programming. If their marketing is strong, their programming should be stronger.

4. How are you collaborating with your community and other organizations to accomplish your goals?

Non-profits face some of the world’s most challenging problems on shoe-string budgets and often the problems they face are rooted in other systemic issues. In order to apply more holistic solutions to problems, organizations that truly seek change are open to community collaborations. If the same after-school mentoring program seeks long-term change, then they are going to build relationships with schools and the families that they serve. They may even partner with local churches and other government agencies. This shows their desire to meet their goals. I once lost an opportunity to work with a non-profit simply because I would not take on their brand. World changing work requires collaboration and some organizations will not have it if it isn’t about their agenda or brand. Collaborations are key when it comes to building positive change from the ground up--if there are none, then it could be a warning sign.

Check back on Thursday for Part 2 of this blog! In the meantime, share with us what’s important to you when it comes to supporting a non-profit financially?

  • Writer's pictureThe HUGG Collective

"A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you." — Bob Proctor

If you haven’t had a chance to watch our IGTV from last week, I encourage you to watch it and “meet” our former Program Manager! He shares about his experience working with children, teens and moms in Haiti and gives us some advice on how to best approach non-profit work in Haiti.

The one thing that stuck with me was how one woman changed the trajectory of his life by offering to pay for his college. Apart from this, Cay became like a mom to him and invested in him. It was this ONE long-term commitment that allowed him to pull himself out of poverty and that ultimately led him to give back to his community. Cay changed Frantz’s life.

After two years of working in Haiti, I learned that no amount of programming and job creation can replace the power of relationship. I recognized that the young men we worked with had allowed their orphanhood to define who they are. No amount of programming was going to break through that narrative. What they needed was ONE person to believe in them and to commit to being there for them in the long run.

Isn’t that what we all need? Our ONE person to back us up? I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for a very small group of people God placed in my life along the way. One mom that nurtured me. One counselor who pointed me in the right direction. One father-in-law who pastored me. One husband who protected me.

So many young people lack that ONE person willing to walk by them and believe in them even when they don’t believe in themselves.

That’s why mentorship is part of the HUGG Pillars. Our young men attend three churches in the community and we encourage them to get as involved as they can. We ask more established church members to pour into them. When you commit to building this pillar, it gives us the resources to go into these partner churches and develop leadership skills among church goers so that they can learn about the power of mentorship. It doesn’t take an entire program--it takes ONE person willing to do for our young men what Cay did for Frantz.

Will you be that person?

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