The Charity Dilemma: Serving Self To Serve Others

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My sister & her colleagues are part of a charitable NGO-NPO (Non Govt – Non Profit org) at Indore, somewhere in central India. An easily excitable bunch of people, and actually very excited about the work they do. She mentioned about a pretty successful outing they had with a seminar covering the teenage girls and their moms together. She talked about more seminars, and the efforts they were making in various charitable areas.

‘What do you try to achieve through these seminars?’ I asked, curious as always! Answer was not so straightforward, but ‘evangelization’ seemed to be the bottom-line. But, evangelization cannot be the objective, it’s the means to get people excited & aligned to what you ultimately want to achieve. If their objective is to get some commitment from people on contribution to the NGO objectives, the hit rate through these seminars is abysmal. A little number of people come to these seminars and go back to their routine.

I also notice that their communication – brochures, pamphlets, discussions, seminars – sounds the same all the time, more focused on what they are doing than what could get people excited about contributing. These NPOs don’t seem to be run professionally like businesses do!

I’m not saying these NPOs don’t have competent people, I’m sure they have and they must also be pretty proud about their intent, accomplishments, as well as own abilities. No doubt on any of this.

However, any profit-oriented organization also has pretty bright individuals and a highly driven mission statement with strong intent. Still, companies need the well-defined functional organization, Goals, Plans, Policies, Systems, Procedures, and above all a well-defined performance management system. And certain issues around Customer-orientation and Outside-In-perspective have been a challenge even for the mature organizations.

But what these (profit-oriented) business organizations do well is focus on building their core strengths. In order for the charitable NPOs to be able to do more, they need to come out of the vicious circle that revolves around being Charitable not only in the intent but in heart, blood, mind, every gene. I liken this to a pregnant mother who’s so altruist (feed-others-before-self category) that jeopardizes her own child while she’s feeding others in the family!

Would it be inappropriate if they pay a consultant to solve their marketing issues, for instance? Or establish a professional management structure that is compensated “as well” as in a start-up? What’s the harm in attracting professionals that work for themselves or for money, as long as their work could be aligned to the charitable motives of the organization?

These charitable NPOs really have to focus (their effort & money) on themselves to build their strength if they want to really serve the society and the world! This, without guilt! Some do, majority don’t!!!


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