Just Throw Money

I’ve wanted to address this topic for some time, but what really got me going was a front page story in the Chicago Tribune about nonprofit executive compensation how some are receiving over $500,000 a year with other benefits/

Uh, this is news?  It’s no secret, but I guess enough people fall for direct marketing mail & ‘image’ that it does seem shocking that so many make over $200,000 a year (in this case, they were pointing out an executive director who was paying herself over $600,000 a year for managing housing for low-income people, with  a good per centage of the units having housing code violations.

A long time ago, I realized it made no sense to  send money & support an organization where the  employees made more than I did.

I have to admit—I have worked for several nonprofits.   The difference between a  for profit, publicly held corporation and a non profit is—nobody sells stock in a nonprofit.    The similarity is—-they both have boards of directors, and  Americans  expect, it is understood—that there is a certain level of integrity. The board members are watching  both the  Chief Executive e Officer and each other. They aren’t supposed to waste money.  But they do.  The more money they have, the more money they waste.  It’s worse than sad. They allow  people and companies they contract with to rip them off and/or provide shoddy service.   Unless the public gets wind of this (as  happened to the American Red Cross several years ago),  they do what works for them, personally, and not what  they say they want to do in their mission statements.

What is extremely troubling to me is….the amount of foreign aid frittered away because there is no accountability.  I was at  an African Studies Association conference, where some people were speaking about Transparency International.  Seems  some World Bank and USAID officials were tired of the corruption they were funding. Their attitudes had been, “Oh, you squandered it?  Have some more!”    The idea was that  those governments that instituted  transparency & respect for rule of law would have more access to government aid.  Well, it’s been  about 10 years or so.  Checking the Transparency International it’s hard to tell if any progress has been made.  The  receiving governments are still getting money from donor countries.

I recently read Paul Theroux’s book,  Dark Star Safari:  overland from Cairo to Capetown. It’s his  overland journey (meaning no fly overs0  in  2002.  If you’ve been to Africa, it’s a great book.  If you haven’t been, it might be difficult to visualize what he is describing.  Theroux was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi (where I served) in the 1960’s.  He’s fictionalized his experience several times, but what he does NOT fictionalize is  the attitude of so many Africans.  They accommodated so many foreigners for a chance to  break out of tribal caste systems, to get any crumbs that foreigners might leave and give them  an artificial, superior status in their communities.  So much of what was built was misused, wasted, neglected—and has crumbled.  No foreign government ever demanded community support for  what they were delivering.  I saw schools, libraries, and hospitals vandalized and looted.  There was always the attitude that the foreigners—especially the Europeans and Americans, with all their white guilt would keep on throwing money.

Most Americans don’t  understand that many  governments of less developed countries, hire lobbyists, in Washington, to  insert  foreign aid into the budget—our federal budget —for their countries.  Of course, Israel and Egypt get the most—-for  arms.   So do India & South Korea.  That’s where a lot of foreign aid goes.  But what about aid for infrastructure  and  human development?  Very few people beyond academia keep track.  Initially  the leader of the country  looks good for bringing in a gift.  As deterioration occurs slowly, the benefit diminishes.

Having seen this kind of foreign aid go to waste so many times, I only support  community based organization.  Yes, they may waste as much money as American ones do, but if they have a track record, I send donations-in-kind and cash.  3  I am particularly proud to support are  Malawi Children’s Village, Sango Chicago, and Global Alliance for Africa.  I believe they are successful because they have partners in the U.S. to  provide technical assistance and insist on transparency.

Malawi Children’s Village is actually in Mangochi, Malawi is run by a physician, Dr. Sibale, & his wife.  Originally conceived as an orphanage by 2 Returned Peace Corps Volunteer physicians, the community asked for  technical support  for keeping HIV affected orphans with their extended families, and help with a school, library, a health clinic, vocational training, and school fees.  They’ve been in existence since 1996, and can bost many high school and college graduates among the orphans, thanks to  the assistance of supporters. The  money donated really does go  to help the entire community uplift themselves.  They have statistical proof.  The American address for donations is:  MCV. c/o Garry Prime, 20 Pond Park Rd., Hingham, MA 02043.

Sango, Chicago—is a group of Kenyan Nationals who  are trying to support needy students from their district in western Kenya.  Money donated goes to school fees, and  clothing and educational supplies for the students and their schools.  http://www.SangoChicago.org

Global Alliance for Africa has also been in existence for about a decade.  The executive director, Tom Derdak, is a professor of philosophy in Chicago,  He originally conceived the organization to  provide  scholarships to nursing students in Africa—-as nurses are desperately needed. The problem was that nurses expatriated themselves to Europe and America—so their skills were not being kept in Africa.  With the approval of his board of directors, Dr. Derdak changed the focus  to  assisting community organizations providing vocational and business development training, and assistance with microloans, bicycles (via http://www.workingbikes.org—another great organization), and books for their community libraries.

There are many, many small organizations doing wonderful things.  Range of Motion Project provides artificial limbs &  training to those providing orthotics in Central America, and is expanding.

In the Chicagoland area. I also support Blessed Bonds (P.O. Box 129, Palos Park, IL 60464) which  provides fostering for pet animals owned by the elderly. disabled, and those in crisis needing temporary shelter for their pets that they do want back once they are able to have them.  Also, CARE/Evanston Animal Shelter, which takes owner surrenders, and only euthanizes very ill or temperamentally unstable animals—& is transparent about it.

Keep in mind that —although  the  nonprofit organizations—the 501 (c) 3 orgs—-are supposed to be overseen by or at least accountable to—the government, nobody is paying attention.  It’s a matter of integrity that the organizations do what their missions  state they are doing.

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