7 Questions To Ask Before Donating to a Non-profit - Part 2
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.