Friday, September 2, 2011

On donor apathy

There is a widespread wave of donor apathy. Wellfare organizations are very painfully aware of this apathy as they constantly ask donors to help in what seems to be a never ending wave of calamities and emergencies. Take as an example the most recent famine in the Horn of Africa.

I read an explanation given in an interview that said that people cannot handle big bad news. The interviewee said that people need the big bad news broken down into small pieces so they can grasp the severity of the problem. This implied to me that we are all small children that have to be told that 30,000 or 300,000 or some other large number is like "all the students in your classroom, but many, many times over". The same language elementary school teachers use with their students. I do not agree. I think we can do better than that.

There are possibly many reasons why people are not responding to these requests for help. The current financial crisis being a very likely strong driver to more recent trends in donor non-responsiveness.

But I will advance that one of the main reasons why people are disconnecting and not responding to requests for help money is the historic absence of meaningful feedback. When was it the last time that the non-profit of your preference sent you any information on the effectiveness of your donation? How many people were saved from starvation per dollar given? I do not want to reduce human lives to deaths/dollar, one can pick a number of measurements, but, maybe more generically, "how far did my dollar go"? I cannot recall one single instance of such feedback.

And when financial statements are published they are pure and simply accounting documents of the exact same type you see coming out of certified accountants hands as they audit a for-profit firm. These financial statements do NOT talk about the pain that was alleviated, as if that was inconsequential.

I do believe that people, in general, do not give as a "tax reduction" solution. Those who do yes, they probably give, forget and really don't care as long as the IRS thanks them. But that is a different ball-game than the rest of us.

The rest of us want to help to alleviate pain in others. The rest of us want to see the smile back in the eyes that once only shed tears. When the rest of us does good we feel a sense of well being as we see the results of our giving. Humans do thrive in this sense of well being. It is only human and part of the dynamics of giving, doing good and feeling good. And that is healthy!

The wide majority of NGOs, small or large, ignore the donor! They treat the donor like a cash register. Once they get the money, there is no contact, no feedback, except for more money.

I wonder then what else do these NGOs think is the cause of donor apathy.

No comments:

Post a Comment