Many years ago I read an article, you know the sort, the ones that you wish you had bookmarked because now you can’t find them again? In this article someone was setting up a charity, I forget what it was fighting for or against, but she had a very definite outcome in mind. So much so that she was able to specify an End Date for her newly minted organisation. She knew what the problem was, and what it would take to fix it, so she was able to say with some certainty how much time, money and effort it would take to put herself out of work. Five years to solve a single problem then move on to finding a new job or a new problem to fix.
Now, I know it is not possible for most, if not all, other charitable organisations to give themselves End Dates. I suppose it might be possible for charities researching cures for specific diseases, if they find the cure for that one then they could move onto the next, but most of the other large non-profits are fighting against violence, poverty and social ills that will take many lifetimes to fix, because they need the will of the majority of people and governments to address – they are raising awareness and dealing with the symptoms of the problems, not tackling the parts of human nature that allow them into our societies in the first place.
But as well as raising awareness and supporting people in sometimes extremely difficult situations, charities have other benefits too. They employ hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, allowing people to support their families, pay their rent and contribute to the economy. They also provide volunteering opportunities for people to give their time instead of money. They train people and support with work experience for people who need to get into (or back into) paid employment. They can be a lifeline for people who have no other support systems available.
I know all this because I have spent the last twenty years working for one.
However, as I am sure a LOT of people have done recently, I have been re-examining my priorities. I have always given to charities other than, and as well as, the one I worked for, but I was also very picky about which organisations I supported. I am not rich by Western standards, but I have never had to live on less than $2 a day, so I have usually been able to give something to help out a fellow living creature.
Now I am thinking about what happens to the money I give. As I said, I’ve always been picky about which charities I give to, but now I think I want to know that what I give is doing more than buying photocopier ink. Let me just say this…photocopier ink IS IMPORTANT…try running an organisation without it, but I have paid for office lightbulbs, printer paper and into the volunteers Christmas Club fund for more than twenty years…now I want to directly contribute to the goal of the organisation.
I don’t think I’ll have any luck finding charities with End Dates to support so I have decided to simply go smaller….it’s sort of a Mission now…
4bysix.com – this one didn’t even take any money. I knitted many, many, many hats for their London homelessness campaign.
Staffsbats.co.uk – £17 a year and I get to be a saviour of bats?!! Bargain!
More to follow I’m sure…