Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fund raising

I am probably biased because I work for a non-profit, but I think the non-profit sector is the most fascinating sector of the economy today. Non-profits have become a multi-billion dollar industry in the same time frame that the distance between rich and poor has grown. Clearly there are many non-profits in the world that have nothing much to do with poverty. However, if poverty is a persistent issue it begs the question of whether or not demand for services always begets supply and whether our current model for funding social change is effective.

There are a bunch of cliches involving babies and bathwater and apple carts that belong <---- here, mostly to say that I don't think non-profits should be funded less or given fewer considerations by the public and private sector in terms of reporting and discounts. I do still wonder whether there isn't something to what guys like Grassley are doing in picking at non-profits, dissecting their operating budgets and calling into question their ties to industry related to their mission.

I was reminded of this ongoing debate when I got an invitation today for a benefit for a Native American tribe looking to raise some money to pay heating bills. It struck me instantly as so very different from the "asks" we do and that I see in general from different non-profits. It was so direct, so lacking the lofty language found in proper requests, that it honestly shook me up a little. It sounded like a modern incarnation of the rent parties I've heard tales of; where people get together to just help each other out. A personal network is needed to do this, but that isn't so hard these days with the wide reach of social media. And of course, there is an underlying reason for the increased professionalism of the non-profit sector: the ability to verify they are doing what they say they are. With smaller groups like this you truly are taking a risk that your money isn't going to be spent how you want.

But what worthwhile thing isn't risky, eh?

Bottom line: we need big non-profits in their pseudo corporate incarnations, somewhat generous compensation packages and all. We also need these smaller instances of people just getting together and doing this one relatively small thing for a neighbor. It's an opportunity for the most direct service possible, whether or not a tax deductible receipt is in your future. And since I can't even link to a donation page (unheard of in major npo land!) you'll just have to go out and see what needs doing in our very own neck of the woods.

No comments:

Post a Comment