Archive for the ‘Corporate giving’ Category

A lesson from World Vision

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

I recently completed a book entitled “The Hole in Our Gospel” by the current president of World Vision, Richard Stearns.

World Vision, as you likely know, is a faith-based relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. The organization annually receives more than $1 billion in donations, and many of its programs are funded through child sponsorship where private donors submit monthly donations that benefit a child, his or her family and the community.

The book may be a difficult read, for two reasons: first, Mr. Stearns does such a good job of describing need and poverty. Second, as an unapologetic Christian, Mr. Stearns believes that he and fellow believers have an obligation to not only “espouse” service to others, but to actually be actively involved in the process.

His first-hand experiences resonate with me and will with any reader who has seen true suffering first-hand. It is always interesting when you read a work such as this to step back at the conclusion and think about “the one thing;” the lesson or concept that stood out above all the rest. For me it was this.

Each chapter in the book features powerful quotes from various sources, including Christian scripture. At the beginning of chapter fourteen, an exchange from an anonymous source goes like this:

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”

“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”

“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

Stearns goes on to explain a specific situation in a remote village wherein he realized that he was the solution to one family’s suffering. We could all learn from this realization.

Many of us have a very difficult time understanding how in this day and age, the world still struggles with so much need. The levels of hunger for instance, quoting Stearns’ statistics, is literally beyond comprehension in a society where restaurants and most households, throw away enough food to feed hundreds each year. Consider:

  • Roughly one in four children in developing counties is underweight
  • Some 350 to 400 million children are hungry
  • About 1 in 7 worldwide—854 million people—do not have enough food to sustain them
  • Approximately 25,000 people die each day of hunger—about 9 million people a year

As Mr. Stearns rightly warns, these statistics are so bad, they may cause a numbness to overcome the reader and instead of sparking action, they can instead induce despair and helplessness.  A simple solution to that reaction is:

You do not have to help everyone, just help someone.

When Operation Kids talks about more effective giving, we are talking exactly about this. There is more than enough food grown in the world to feed its inhabitants; distribution and greed are the issues. There are plenty of people who give large sums of money in an effort to fight poverty; their generosity is not the issue, their understanding of the problem is. Imagine the power of already existing, but properly organized and distributed aid to those in need?

As donors and philanthropists, it can at times be challenging to get past the statistics and once again personalize need. Stearns uses one of my favorite quotes: “The death of one is a tragedy; the death of millions is statistic.” As you consider the objectives in your charitable giving, as an individual, a family or a corporation, consider the impact, the efficiency and the desired outcome. It is possible to alter the seemingly overwhelming statistics that we hear about global need, but it requires both generosity and planning. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, just as you would in your financial planning. No one is expected to instinctively know how to give; how to change the world. If the passion and the resources are there, then you can learn who the trusted stewards of your giving are and begin to realize the difference between simply giving and high-impact philanthropy.

My “thanks” to Richard Stearns for his commitment and passion, for changing his life to serve others, and for taking the time to write down his thoughts and experiences in such a powerful manner.


Is Your Charitable Giving Changing?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

The challenges and opportunities facing the nonprofit community provide me with a growing list of issues and reasons to blog more frequently this year. Economic challenges to ripple through various sectors and the charitable giving sector is no exception.


If you are a reader of the Wall Street Journal you are seeing unprecedented page space given to headlines such as: “Family Charities Get Focused,” “After Madoff, Donors Grow Wary of Giving,” and “The Philanthropy Shakedown.”


Philanthropy and giving in this country is a critical element of who we are and why our nation works. Non profits are, by definition, neither governmental organizations nor private sector businesses. They are something else – the individual pieces of a sector large enough to generate over $300 billion annually and important enough to earn tax exempt status from the IRS.


The fact is that non-profit entities provide vitally important services that for-profit entities would consider “unprofitable.” They are an effective alternative to government because of their flexibility and their ability to voluntarily secure support –in time and money – from interested and involved citizens.


As Americans, we support this approach but for reasons beyond the practical. We actually see value, each of us, in helping our neighbor. We have within us a desire to make the world a better place and give of our success and prosperity, in a way that no other nation fully parallels.  


But when the economy turns soft and people who should know better turn dishonest, these tough times and disingenuous people are as likely to target a non profit organization as they are a for-profit business. Recent headlines prove  this and also tie a growing sense of concern to charitable giving.


Here is an important point: so far, what we are seeing among our donors is this: people are not determined to give less, but rather are becoming determined to see more results from their giving. From our perspective, that is a good thing.


It is shaky ground to refer to a crisis or disaster as an opportunity. The good people of New Orleans will tell you, in reverent tones, that while no one would wish the devastation of Katrina on anyone, the reemerging community, particularly in the area of education, is better.  People there have determined to take advantage of the disaster and make things better.


Likewise, since we are all in the current financial crisis together and destined to ride it out, we can take the situation and make things better. The greatest crisis would be a measurable shift from our innate desire to help one another. Many more children will be hurt if our fear and skepticism over the deplorable actions of a Madoff cause us to pull back even a little.


It is timely that Operation Kids has a decade jump on this issue. That is how long we have been helping donors “give smarter” and helping charities deliver services more efficiently. Our plea as a charity and advice as a charitable giving strategist is this:

  • Give, but give smarter. Expect more from your giving
  • Get advice before you give, just as you get advice in other important areas of your life.
  • Research the charitable organizations you are giving to and get to know their key players.
  • Demand accountability and results for your giving.

The current economic crisis has made the situation just that much worse for too many children.  Giving to organizations that effectively address need is more important than ever.  There are many great organizations out there. Now, more than ever, it is up to individuals, foundations and corporate donors to support those organizations that are truly making a difference. There is more to come as we try and do our part in educating donors and keeping the spirit of people helping people, alive and well.


So, how are you changing your charitable giving, given the current economic climate? Are you give more because it is needed more? Less because you have less? Demanding more because of recent examples of gross greed? Asking more questions? Tell us how this current climate is changing your thinking – or why it is staying the same.