Dec 03, 2007

Smaller Nonprofits May Show Donors More Obvious Results

I hope everyone has had a chance to read The New York Times' annual section on "Giving" (November 12, 2007). It was full of interesting thought-fodder, but one tidbit struck me in particular.

In an article called "With Sudden Wealth, the Desire for Sudden Impact," Katie Hafner quotes Peter Hero, senior adviser at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, as saying: "I hear over and over: 'I want to do something that makes a difference. Not just a big charity that everyone knows about.'"

Think about that statement for a minute. It's easy to assume that the big charities have all the fundraising advantages: high visibility, a full development staff (rather than a harried part-timer), and the resources to bring about measurable, even headline-grabbing change.

But within these organizations' (relatively) big budgets, it appears some donors feel their donations are getting lost. That's a lesson for the larger charities, of course, but even more important, it's a source of encouragement for the smaller ones.

If you can show prospective donors that they'll be directly responsible for, say, a first-time local initiative, a measurable expansion in your services, or simply results that you can point to (as in, "your donation went to save THAT stretch of beach"), you may win their support when others wouldn't.


That post really hit home - I want to donate money to an environmental organisation and there's one whose work really ties in with the academic knowledge I have about conserving wilderness. But since their work involves buying land, I somehow feel that my small donates ($450) won't go very far or do much good. Perhaps my donation would be better off with a different environmental organisation but none others do what this particulary group does.

Yet when I donated $450 to the School of St Jude in Tanzania, I know that the money paid for three beds for students in the new boarding house and when the house opened I was able to see photos of and read about the beds and kids.