The answer probably isn’t what you think.
It isn’t because they’re being wasteful or irresponsible or paying their staffs too much or spending too much money on overhead. It’s actually exactly the opposite.
In his recent TED Talk, Dan Pallotta—founder of Pallota Teamworks, a company that helped several charities raise a total of over $500 million during its lifetime (1994-2002)—speaks about the way our expectations of charities really undermine their success. We say we want humanitarian problems solved, but our thought processes run contradictory to that goal.
Pallotta says we should stop rewarding charities for spending very little (having low overhead, low employee salaries, etc.) and start rewarding them for what they are accomplishing. Because investing in human, intellectual, and physical capital really does make a difference, just like in the for-profit sector.
Now this doesn’t mean we forgo measures of accountability and responsibility. There are, admittedly, many bad charities and some misguided people in charge of good ones. It means we allow those charities that are doing great work and have great ideas the breathing room and resources to make things happen that will make real change.
An aspiring hoop dancer who dreams of flying, Thandiwe Ogbonna is a recently graduated, sometimes aggravated, partially animated and fully fascinated editor, who timidly ventures into the minefield of writing. You can visit her blog Musical Meditations and Magic Moments or find it on Facebook, or email her at [email protected].
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta