Changes are Afoot

​Non-Profits Being Hit

Seems that times are a changing for non-profits, we’ve heard recently that budgeting services have had funding cuts, now we’re hearing that other social agencies will have to ”disclose” details about the people they assit in order to maintain funding levels.

Some of the changes may not appear too bad, with some explanation being for the changes being that it is a way to help reduce operational, backroom costs; something that is perhaps needed. But is a heavy handed approach, as these changes seem to be, the way to go?

There’s no denying that there are duplication of services being provided within the non-profit sector, with each competing for a slice of the funding pie.

If there are several organisations working in the same space, it would make sense where possible for them to work closer to help reduce oerational costs. And, yes, there are organisations now working more closely to help reduce overall costs, but more could still be done.

When it comes to disclosure of client information, names, addresses, gender etc, this becomes worrying. 

With some organisations assisting vunerable people being asked to provide such personal information in order to gain or maintain funding it screams of Big Brother.

What’s wrong with the way things have done previously, a summary of clients assisted seems to have worked well. 

What will Government agencies use the personal information for?

How will clients, particularly those who are vulnerable, victims of crime etc react, will it cause some to not seek help out of fear of their personal information being misused (lost)?

Will your organisation be affected by these changes?

If you support organisations that maybe affected by these changes, will this have any impact on your continued support?

Questions need to be asked of Government agencies as to what are the REAL purposes of these changes?

A Few Things to Consider

We all want to know that the organisation we are supporting, or wanting to support is doing good, that it is meeting it’s goals, reaching the people it is there to help. But, it’s not always the case, some organisations aren’t meeting targets and are only scratching the surface.

How can we check if the one we are looking at supporting is worth sending money to?

There’s a few things to look at, sure there’s a search of the Charity Register, but this is only a superficial look at their income, expenses and a check that they’re complying with what they are set up to do. In essence the report you will find on the Register is simply a declaration, it doesn’t show what the organisation has actually done.

An organisations website will give you the ”fluff” about who they support, what they do, but does it really give you an insight into who it really helps? Sure, there may be some testimonials from people it has helped, but in reality these are often hand picked to give the best picture of the work done.

If you are considering giving support, and particularly so if you are looking at a major contribution, a lifetime contribution or as a key sponsor to look deeper.

It is suggested that you find clients of the organisation and have a chat to them, don’t only talk to the people the organisation has suggested you talk to, but some how find others who have used the organisation. These are more likely to be more open about the support, service that they received.

When talking with previous, or current clients of an organisation you will soon see whether the support they received was beneficial, did it change their situation, are they better off. All of this will help you work out if this is the right organisation for you to support.

Another thing to look at, is the organisation meeting its goals? This can be a hard one to judge, but you should be able to find out by the chats you have with previous clients, by viewing the organisations annual report (not the one on the Charity Register but the main one that most publish these days.) Even a search on Google will likely give you insights into the impact the organisation is having, don’t forget too, that a search through their social media activity will likely also give some good insights.

Something I have seen people do when looking at supporting an organisation, is to look at what other organisations are working in the same space, and seeing if these have or intend to work together at some point. Remember, there’s many organisations doing the same or very similar things, could collaboration, merger be more beneficial to everyone. It’s something worth considering when making a decision to support.

Another thing I suggest people look at, is who is put first; the client, staff or donor? If it’s the staff then you need to ask why? If it’s the donor, same questions; in my opinion the client of an organisation should be the one who is put first, if they are not, then is it an organisation you want to support?

The Demise of the Charity Shop

With recent news that Save the Children will be closing their stores it’s timely to see what’s happening, what’s changed.

Save the Children, isn’t the first and it won’t be the last to close up shop.

At one time generous landlords gave organisations cheap rentals and even reduced other costs associated with renting shop space. This has changed with landlords now, in the main, charging market rents.

With market rents being charged organisations have had little choice but to no longer sell items for $1 or $2 dollars, but to increase some prices; sure there are still great bargains and, remember every purchase benefits the organisation no matter the price, even that five cent spoon purchase has a benefit.

There is, in my opinion, also been a growth in the number of organisation having a “retail” presence, this has created competition with people having more choice as to where they can shop for a bargain. Not unlike mainstream retail.

Sure, we will see fewer organisations with a retail presence, but they will continue to be there. Some will still sell items to raise funds, but this will likely be, as it is already, be online through the likes of TradeMe.

Others will start using other methods, social enterprise for one. With some organisations already looking at this as a means to raise funds with little, in some cases no overheads; yet still making use of donated items to create an income stream away from grants etc.

Disgruntled Board Member

We’ve all had them, or at least heard of them, they’re the one who always has a negative attitude, always has to be right, always needs to have the last word.

I stumbled across this on Nonprofit Quarterly and thought it worth sharing … perhaps it’s a little tongue in cheek, but it’s a good read nonetheless.

Dr. Conflict: About That %$@# Troublemaking Board Member…

Dear Dr. Conflict:

We have a former board member who left the board feeling that he had “lost” some kind of fight. Ours was not the only board that he left in this way—in fact, he told me about epic battles he had fought on this or that other board where people did not see the light (according to him). He was always the hero in these stories—the bringer of truth; the others were usually described as being motivated by self-interest of some kind. And, actually, he is very smart, but he is also a fire starter, and sometimes in ways that are hard to trace.

So here is my situation. This guy is quite connected vis-à-vis state agencies, and I believe, though I cannot say for certain, that he is having a negative effect on our funders. I get the sense that our relationship with some of the agencies with which we have major contracts has become less robust. Conversations are less open. It is confusing, but I think I do see a pattern.

How do I take such a thing on? What is the best way to proceed?

—Need a New Friend


Dear Need a New Friend,

You don’t just need a new friend—you need a posse. Dr. Conflict has seen people like your former board member many times before, but it’s not all his fault that he’s such a pain. It’s yours, too. Surely you knew about his epic battles before you recruited him? And if you didn’t, why not? What were you thinking, bringing this guy onto the board?

Some readers may say Dr. Conflict is talking to the wrong person. They believe the board alone is responsible for recruiting its members. But Dr. C sides with Robert Herman’s concept of executive centrality, wherein, “since chief executives are going to be responsible and since they accept responsibility for mission accomplishment and public stewardship, they should work to see that boards fulfill their legal, organizational, and public roles.”1 So Dr. Conflict holds you accountable for the mess you’re in.

Here are Dr. Conflict’s recommendations: (1) make sure that this sort of sloppy recruitment doesn’t happen again, and (2) deal with the renegade ex-board member by counterbalancing his message through your own robust advocacy effort.

Continue reading here

How do / would you handle situations like this?



What Makes a Charity a Charity

Talk to anyone in the street about charities and they’ll say “there’s too many” “I’m always being asked for money for something” – and that’s just from people who comment about the “visible” charities. Wait until you start talking about the Big Business Charities – the first to come to mind are Churches.

They’re registered as charities, have, in the main massive resources, they have charitable status which means they don’t pay taxes like you or I.

Then there’s the likes of Sanitarium which is exempt from paying tax on its business earnings, simply because it’s owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is a registered charity.

When Big Business, yes, Sanitarium is a business, is exempt from paying taxes on earnings, it can make people question whether this is making a mockery of the whole charity sector.

I could write screeds about this, but having stumbled across Kate Russell’s (no relation) piece on LinkedIn, I see no point in repeating what she has to say.

I agree with what Kate has to say in “Is it time to reform the Charities Register?” and, it would seem those who have comment on her piece are of the same mind.

Have a read of what Kate has to say – do you agree that it is time to reform the Charities Register?

“In recent years, there have been various moves by Government to ensure that charities are more accountable and transparent in their financial management. The new accounting standards that come in shortly will ensure that charities are clear and open about investment returns and outcomes reporting.

“We as a sector should welcome these moves as adding credibility to what we do, but isn’t it time the Government attacked the more complex issues of what constitutes a ‘charity’ here in Godzone?

Read Kate’s full piece here

What do you think – is it time for reform?

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, I’ll also gladly pass your comments onto Kate.

Fundraising – A Million Bucks (Updated)

Does the use of fundraising websites for “personal gain” dilute the purpose of the site, does it make people think twice before giving to other causes?

Have had a few people contact me about the person who has set up a page on a popular fundraising site, asking how this type of fundraising is allowed. Their main concern was that it dilutes the purpose of the site and is making them question whether to support real causes.

On a personal level, I have mixed views; part of me says “good on her”, another part says “is this the right way to go about it, and should what is seen as a method to raise funds for “charitable purposes” be used for what could be personal gain. The jury is still out.

If I put on my charity hat, I don’t see how it is appropriate, and that’s the view of the people who have raised this issue with me. These are people who give to charities and people who work in the charity/philanthropic sector.

Fundraising sites are generally seen as being to support people in need of medical, social or as a means for charities themselves to collect funds; they’re not normally (unless I’ve missed it) used for personal purposes.

People have said that using these types of sites for other purposes dilutes what they’re there for, that perhaps allowing sites to be used for other purposes could tarnish the “brand”, perception people have for them.

So what has raised this discussion; those in NZ, and perhaps further afield will no doubt be aware of the article on “Ask for a million dollars, see what happens” – about the woman who has set up a fundraising page to perhaps help her purchase a house for her and her family.

Read the article and then comment what you feel about this:

Ask for a million dollars, see what happens

A recent conversation had sparked the idea – that if one million people gave one dollar each she would be a millionaire.

“With that in mind I have decided to see if it’s possible.”

She started the page on the first day of October and has given herself a deadline of six months.

Both herself and her partner are in full-time work, but she said they struggle with the rise of living costs like many New Zealanders.

“We would love to own a house for our children but the idea of even having enough for a deposit just seems impossible,” she said.

“Obviously I don’t need a million to do this but hey, why not aim big?”

Read the full article here

What do you feel about this; please share in the comments below.


The discussion about crowd funding for “causes” still goes on (and is likely to for some time) … this editorial piece centres around a couple wanting help for IVF treatment; which personally I have no problem with.

Have a read and see what you think.

Editorial: Givealittle asks a lot of our common sense

OPINION: If parents are to seek philanthropic funding to have a baby, their generous benefactors should get naming rights for the little baby.

Who could not be supportive of Jessica Holdaway and Rebecca Gribble’s dream? The urge for loving parents to bring a new baby into the world is a special and innate one.

But a public charitable appeal on crowdfunding site Givealittle to pay for the privilege – now, that is a new level of support entirely.

Leon Jayet-Cole died of serious head injuries this year, and the public donated $4600 towards his funeral costs.

“We personally aren’t rich people,” Holdaway says. . “It’s really the only way we could think of to be able to afford something like IVF.”

Story: Couples turn to fundraising for IVF to avoid debt

Public appeals on websites like New Zealand’s Givealittle and US-based GoFundMe are carving out new ethical and social questions – not to mention issues of integrity and accountability.

This year, $4600 was raised to pay for the funeral of autistic 5-year-old Leon Jayet-Cole. But Givealittle refunded the cash, after it emerged ACC had already picked up the tab for the funeral, Leon’s stepfather was charged with the boy’s murder, and his mother accused of failing to seek medical treatment for his injuries. The criminal charges are denied, and the cases progress through the courts..

Then there was Samuel Forrest, who sought $60,000 to bring his Downs syndrome baby Leo to New Zealand and to raise him as a solo dad, after the boy’s Armenian mother deserted him. When Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher tweeted the cause, nearly 18,000 donors around the world contributed $660,000 on GoFundMe.

Keep reading here