When I worked for a university, my students used to ask me for advice about deciding which non-profit organizations to support. They felt overwhelmed by the choices, and understandably so. Here are three things I would say to them, with a fourth that reveals a bit of my own opinion about the World Vision choices this past year.
1. Identify which cause you are interested in impacting through your financial gift. Poverty is multi-faceted, and certain areas probably pull on your heart more than others. Embrace the causes that are dear to you and commit to seeing them advanced.
2. Find an organization that you trust and support when it comes to their approach to alleviating poverty. In other words, how are they trying to solve this problem? There are, of course, many factors related to being a trustworthy and effective organization, including but not limited to: their work dignifies the person they serve; their work equips those they serve to be more of who God created them to be; they manage their finances with integrity; many, if not most, of their in country leaders are nationals; they employ accepted best practices for the type of work they do. Consider all of these. But most all, consider the goals they are aiming for and how they are trying to reach them.
3. When you find a non-profit you align with, become a consistent donor. Consistent > Big. One big donation is gladly accepted, certainly. But consistent gifts are the most critical, because they help that organization estimate their revenue with greater reliability. Accurate revenue estimates help them plan ways to continue their work.
4. At points along the way, that organization might change. They might expand their programs, their staff, or their geographic scope. They might broaden the population they serve or change administrative policies. We all know that organizations change.
If the organization makes material changes to their strategy to alleviate poverty, and if those changes will make things worse for the poor people who are supposed to be helped, then consider moving your support to another non-profit with whom you align.
If you do not know if changes to a poverty alleviation strategy will be more or less effective than the current programs, find someone who might know and ask them.
If that organization makes policy changes that do not affect its ability to serve the poor, but you disagree with those changes, respectfully express that directly to them in words. Any other course of action reveals your wrongheaded belief that the only people who can effectively help poor people are the ones who agree with you. What’s more, good non profits want to hear from their donors, whom they see as part of their team.
Then I would say to my students: the biggest key is that the people that non-profit seeks to help are the winners. The poor, the precious poor who are so dear to Jesus, they are first priority. When they win, we all win.
Care for the poor should be of utmost concern to us, because it is of the utmost concern to Jesus. It is time, it is always time, to put them–their wellness and their wholeness–above ourselves.