Every Gift has a Story

Having lived through a family member’s evacuation from Fort McMurray has provided me with a glimpse into the plight of many families up north here in Alberta.  Now, reading and listening to the opining of Charity Intelligence and colleagues about spending, worthiness or focus is quite concerning.

First, I love a good debate, and usually the drink that accompanies that debate. But, hearing the perspective of some charity leaders or businesses that one organization is more worthy, more local, more meaningful, or more important than another, misses the point of the entire sector.

The charitable world is a mosaic that allows people to help others based on personal motivation and on emotions. Each person is guided by a set of beliefs that lead them not only to give, but to decide how they want to give.

Statements like “Why help dogs when people need help”, “don’t give goods, give money”, “give local to be sure the money is used properly” are oversimplified and discouraging to donors.  These messages undercut the complex efforts of agencies that are run by professional teams who are experts in their field and organizations that are either supported or entirely operated by individuals volunteering out of love for the cause.  Both are important, both are needed, and both deserve respect and support.

Fort McMurray will need all of the support offered, emergency aid, medium term remediation and services, and long term rebuilding.  Redirecting gifts or misinforming the public will likely mean less support, and result in less service to a community that needs our help.

Now is a time of national tragedy for thousands.  So despite the best of intentions to educate the public, let’s let people feel good about giving rather than telling them they’ve made a mistake.  Let’s remain bound to our ethics to ensure donor money is used as promised. Let’s be sure that we then hold each organization accountable for how they help.  My experience in this sector is that organizations welcome that call to action for accountability and engagement.

Helping is a terrible thing to criticize.

Scott Decksheimer, CFRE

Special thanks to Larissa Groch, CFRE for insight and advice on this piece.

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Scott is a Partner with ViTrēo Group Inc. a fundraising consulting firm with national reach.