Non-Governmental Imagination

Frist Scandal Taints All Charities By Association?
January 7, 2006, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Donations, Media

Arianna Huffington claims that all charities are tainted by Sen. Bill Frist’s pseudo-charity World of Hope:

“One of the worst aspects of this abuse of charity is the trashing of one of the best things in our culture, the charitable instinct. When people hear that Abramoff’s Capital Athletic foundation took in millions but spent less than 1 percent of its revenue on its purported purpose (with the rest funneled to Trader Jack’s pet projects, like overseas golfing trips with DeLay), or that a sizable chunk of the $4.4 million World of Hope took in went to Frist’s political cronies, it can’t help but cast a pall over the whole concept of charitable giving.”

I sure hope not. People are nosy. If they think that a charity is not legitimate, they poke around. Or at least they should. Whenever a scandal blows up about a charity being a front for bribery, terrorism or other nefarious activities, questions get asked about all NGOs. This is exactly the way it should be.

People need to probe NGOs to find out if what they are doing is worthwhile, effective, efficient and optimal. While a few big name organizations make oodles of money, most nonprofits are small and underfunded (at least if you ask them). Organizations get sharper when people ask how they spend their money, why they operate in this arena and not that one, how they are different from other organizations, etc.

Many people write a check to any group that sounds nice and has a touching newsletter or ad. That’s great, but the world is better served if people demand excellence from NGOs. The best, most efficient nonprofit organizations will be able to prove why they are the best, and they only get to answer those questions when people start asking them.

NGOs need money, but they also need involvement. Nonprofits love (or should love) feedback about ways they could improve, what is cool/uncool about the website, opportunities they may be unaware of, etc.

Whenever a bad apple arises, it presents a wonderful opportunity for legitimate nonprofits to prove that what they do is worthwhile.


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