Investment opportunity

I don’t understand the contemporary concern that charities have become businesses.

I expect an international relief organisation to have governance in place to comply with legal and statutory requirements. I expect it to have a board of trustees and directors, and specialist staff. I expect it to have HR, finance and IT responsibilities, to have to manage its facilities. I would be worried if it didn’t.

I also expect it to pay its workers on the ground, to put diesel in their vehicles, to arrange flights, visas and security. I expect it to recruit doctors, nurses, engineers and educationalists who have the necessary skills to make a difference on the ground. I expect it to make strategic decisions as to which type of tent to buy and which type of wheat; I expect it to invest in research to ensure the solutions they put in place are the right ones. And yes, I expect it to have an army of volunteers too.

Not every charity has to be run like a global corporation, but to be effective, all charities have to run like a business to some degree. The alternative is running yourself into the ground.

I once worked with a national helpline charity, which worked on a completely voluntary basis. All staff and trustees were volunteers. Income came solely from a small band of concerned donors, and was spent solely on rent for the office and telephone bills. Nothing was spent on stationery or on marketing the charity, except for a small website.

Unsurprisingly, although the need of the community remained for a helpline of this kind, the charity eventually wound up, because it could no longer sustain itself. Had it been run more like a business, making key investments to carry it forward, I am almost certain it would have survived and thrived.

Charity in itself is an investment:

“those who spend their wealth in Allah’s cause are like grains of corn which produce seven ears, each bearing a hundred grains” — Quran 2:261

It will be the believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection, and so I have not issue donating to charities which are transparent and accountable in the way my money is spent. If only 90% of my donation is spent on relief and development and what is left is used to support delivery and future fundraising, so be it. I trust that God will reward me and them for our combined efforts.

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