The Least of These

Providing a better model for overseas giving

Almost all of the “overseas” donating done by people in the U.S. is to non-profits based in the U.S., not those based in the countries that need the help. This is because people do not have the time or money to verify that an overseas non-profit is the equivalent of a 501(c)3 organization (which is necessary to prove to the IRS for tax deductions) and to research if the organization is well-run and ready to use donations wisely.

Weaknesses of the current approach

They also do not have the time or resources to make sure the money they donated was well-spent.

This current situation is an ineffective approach to solving the core problems that are at hand because:

a. The countries in the worst condition desperately need local non-profit institutions that are experienced, well-run and powerful. Those local institutions create greater stability, greater local leadership and independent places of power outside of the government, military and big business. One reason the U.S. is strong and wealthy is that we have long had numerous strong and dynamic institutions and independent groups based here. The least-developed countries generally lack that history and the current giving model essentially reinforces that problem.

b. It is very expensive to have management, support staff and headquarters (with related expenses of rent, utilities, etc.) based in the U.S. Doing that is probably 10-20 times more costly than having those same things based in Africa, South Asia or Latin America. Right now the current model basically reverse outsources staff to the U.S., where operations are far more expensive. This greatly diminishes the impact of donations.

c. While this increases costs, a related but separate impact is that fewer jobs are created in underdeveloped countries. Having jobs in these countries creates jobs where they are desperately needed.

d. Outsiders might have important ideas, resources and expertise in certain areas, but the people in each country ultimately have greater knowledge of their circumstances and know the paths out of their own plights better than outsiders. Having non-profits based in the countries takes greater advantage of this knowledge.

e. It causes people in underdeveloped countries to lack ownership and power over their own situations, they then become less motivated and more dependent. People will support what they have a role in creating. Such engagement creates both sustainable organizations and societies. The opposite is true as well. Outside experts tend to disenchant people. When they do not have ownership over a process or an organization, they are less inspired to take action.

f. Donors are not engaged in the process, have little choice and do not see where their donations are going.

Our model: a perfect solution

We will provide a perfect solution to the problem in these ways:

We will send qualified field representatives to find and evaluate worthy non-profit organizations overseas. We will make sure the non-profit truly needs funds, and also has the organizational capacity to make effective use of them.

Our website lists hundreds of non-profits for whom donations could be earmarked. As described above, donors are emotionally engaged with the non-profits through the use of photos, videos and online field journals. We will provide naming opportunities for people to sponsor the non-profits in various ways. We will show how much of the “donation capacity” of that group has been reached. When it reaches capacity, we will remove it from the donations page and list another worthy non-profit.

Donations are entirely tax-deductible because they go through us and we have verified they are tax-deductible.

We will monitor results to see if the money is used effectively and if the organization deserves ongoing funds. Donors have access, via our site, to all follow-up evaluations.

Our field reps have organizational development, coaching and consulting skills to help foreign groups become more organized, focused and better managed. If additional outside expertise is needed, we will help them find the right resource.

Benefits

Our approach will bring the following benefits:

  1. Donated money goes much further. Almost all funds go towards the foreign non-profits and the work they perform. Their rent, staff salaries and other expenses are lower than those in the U.S. We only take on the roles that are truly needed.
  2. More jobs are created in the underdeveloped countries. In addition, the money spent by these people helps to create other jobs.
  3. Non-profits in underdeveloped countries are strengthened. They acquire valuable leadership and organizational skills. They offset the dominance of the military and governments in those countries.
  4. Local ideas and knowledge have greater play than they currently do, all the while being supported by outside expertise in the areas that need assistance.
  5. Local populations are more engaged, motivated and empowered, and less dependent.
  6. Donors are more engaged, have the choice of which non-profits to support and are able to see the results their donations have.

We believe individuals will be far more likely to donate internationally once they see the benefits of our services described above, both to themselves and to the recipients. In this way, the two parts of our mission are synergistic. Increasing the levels of giving to those in greatest need will generate more money for the better approach. Offering a better approach will increase the likelihood of giving.

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