Philanthropic efforts are increasingly marketed in ways that make them appear trendy to the general public. You can “like” causes on Facebook, donate money via text message, or buy a pair of cute shoes and at the same time help a child in need get a pair of shoes too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s encouraging that organizations are finding ways to make fundraising efforts accessible and relatable to their current audience. If non-profits are going to survive, then it is imperative that they utilize ingenuity. What troubles me is that people may focus too much on the ease with which they can commit money (or simply an electronic thumbs-up) to an organization in order to feel or appear socially responsible and spend too little time looking into the organization itself and how it uses its resources. Philanthropy is certainly sexy. What’s not sexy: giving money to an organization without knowing how that money is actually being used.
An article in the Huffington Post acknowledged that the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) has recently handed out ‘F’ grades to dozens of poorly run or shady organizations whom it says donors should steer clear of if they want more bang for their charitable buck. While some charities receive failing grades due to inefficient management, other organizations are used as vehicles for “non-profit entrepreneurs” to gain substantial salaries and perks. AIP stated in its report that with no “federal watchdog, no investors who will sue if given false information, and loose reporting rules, the nonprofit sector has little oversight and much room for financial manipulation.”
Since this is the Achieve in Africa blog and not my own personal soapbox, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that when we say 95 cents of every dollar goes directly towards the projects of Achieve in Africa, we mean it. As stated on the website, all AIA representatives are volunteers. AIA’s administrative costs are very minimal –using only 5% of funds received. We’re dedicated to increasing education efforts in Africa, not increasing the size of our wallets.
While your heart may tell you to give, use your head to decide to whom to give. If you’re willing to make the effort to donate your time or money to an organization, then you should be willing to demand accountability from that organization. You have a right to know that your gift is being used wisely. Find out how the charity you’re involved in is spending its money. Responsible giving looks good on you.