Where is my money going?

This past year, I took a course in sponsorship and fundraising, and one week, class started off this this video: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

While I do not totally agree with everything Dan says, his perspectives on the non-profit world made me reconsider my own ideas when it comes to fundraising and donations.

Generally speaking, we don’t want non-profits to use our donations to pay their staff or buy office supplies. We want our money to be going to the children in Africa, the homeless in our own city, to see that direct impact.

However, I think Dan raises an important point.

We want non-profits to spend our donations directly on the beneficiaries, but we don’t stop to consider the costs associated with getting that money there. We don’t think about salaries and office costs, supporting the people who are providing these services. We think that if an organization is keeping it’s overhead costs low that it is more ethical, and will be doing better work.

But keeping non-profit CEO’s at a low pay grade means that those who graduate with degrees in business, marketing, accounting, are faced with a choice: doing good for the world or doing well for themselves. And many will choose the latter.

I think there is a fine line here. Obviously we want to know that our donations are being put to good use, but I think that it is time for everyone to reconsider what good use is. Because “good use” doesn’t always mean funds going directly to the child in Africa, or the homeless in your city. Sometimes, it means spending a few dollars to create a more appealing work environment, or paying a slightly higher salary to hire a marketing expert who can reach even more people, which would increase donations, which means even more finances can go directly towards beneficiaries.

I still believe that non-profits financial statements should be publicly available, and I still believe that we should know how our dollars are spent. But I do think that the public needs to change our standards.

Just because an organization’s goal isn’t to generate profit, doesn’t mean that employees should be underpaid. And at the end of the day, if we want our non-profits to do the work they promise to do, we need to invest to provide the best skills and services possible.

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