ProSpeak: What Americans Really Need to Know About Charities
Think about it. Who among us would ever invest a dollar of our retirement funds into a company that boasts to spend the least on management and marketing? No one. That company would soon be bankrupt. So why do the watchdogs want nonprofit organizations to disregard spending on skilled management and the most effective, growth-oriented fundraising programs? This spells disaster!
In reality, many of the most pressing causes of our day — poverty, literacy, AIDS research, homelessness, the environment — are best addressed not by big government and corporate America, but by nonprofit organizations. Habitat for Humanity; ASPCA; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Catholic Charities; Salvation Army; American Red Cross; Nature Conservancy; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital; Operation Smile; and your local rescue missions, food banks and health clinics each day make the world a little better.
Because these issues are so vital, Americans should insist that the organizations that tackle them have the finest management and fundraising money can buy. Should we really scrimp on the leadership and marketing efforts of childhood cancer research and feeding hungry people? On the contrary — this is where we should invest even more money.
So, what's a nonprofit to do?
Ultimately, the watchdogs' current way of evaluating charities is woefully inadequate. Instead, there needs to be a more well-rounded way of assessing the success of nonprofit organizations. As Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant say in their book, "Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits," we need to look at the overall impact of a charity. To do this, I suggest organizations ask five probing questions about their own performances:
1. Are we having a significant impact? Are we effectively addressing an issue or cause that is important to the potential donor? Do we do what we say we will with donated dollars, and do we have methods in place to measure our impact? Do we build houses? Feed the hungry? Rescue animals? Assist veterans? Simply put, the single most important factor for a potential donor to consider is whether an organization actually does work the donor wishes to support.