Sunday, December 16, 2007

How does the intangible get into a report on a charity's impact?

I've been thinking about our decision to look for funding from individuals in the community rather than courting the benefactors who might give a large sum. Maybe we're shooting ourselves in the foot. We'll see.

Last night I watched 'After the Wedding', about a man running an orphanage in India that struggles for funding. He can get a multi-million dollar donation if he agrees to live in Denmark. Wouldn't that be a lovely dilemma? What would I do? (Of course, it'd be easy for me. I'm the only one at Scrollworks with no relevant skills.)

I thought about the $50 my mother donated. Would it be better to spend that on a seminar touting "Secrets of Grant-writing" or on a used keyboard for the Scrollworks piano lab? I can't help but vote for the keyboard.

Sure, the seminar is an investment that eventually may get us a grant. But the kids we want to reach don't have time to wait for that. They need what Scrollworks is offering NOW. If that keyboard is part of reaching a child during the first semester and changing their life in even a small way, the return on that investment is beyond calculation. I'd like to know how that gets factored into the measures of a charity's impact.

And the donor. I think every donor wants their money to go directly to the program. Some money has to go into operations and fund raising, but the slimmer the organization, the less that has to be. I know one organization that spent 1/3 of the amount received from grants on the salary of the grant writer. That person earned every penny, but, to me, that indicates something about the process is not working. Maybe the applications weren't done as well as others, maybe the grants applied for weren't a good fit, but time, effort, and money was wasted on both sides. If it's that much of a game, I don't want to play.

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