Today I went with Katie to “work” at the internet café, Flavours. We started talking about NGOs/non-profit/charity type stuff and she gave me some very interesting information that I never really thought about before. I guess she knows this woman who has helped start up a few non-profits and she has a blog. Apparently many people ask her how to go about starting their own, searching for any tips she may have to help aid them in their endeavors. One of her blog posts (that Katie showed me) talks about just this with the main theme of “just don’t do it.” The main point of it is to bring attention to all of the realities of starting your own org such as, it’s WAY more work than you will ever imagine and you’d better be ready to be dirt broke for AT LEAST the first few years of operation (in addition to start-up time). These are all things I’m aware of so I wasn’t too shocked upon hearing this. However there were some things that made a lot of sense that I definitely hadn’t given much thought to in the past.
One of these thought-inducing items was the pure number of non-profit organizations (both registered and unregistered) that exist. In the US alone there are over 1.5 million! That’s right, MILLION. So if you’re going to start your own you’d better be sure there’s not something out there already doing exactly what you want to be doing or you know how to make your organization stand out from all the rest. If not the reality is you are more than likely going to fail within the first few years. Pretty awesome odds, huh? While this realization was a little sad to hear it is also very positive. I had no idea there were so many different do-good organizations just in the United States. With a number like this it seems likely that finding one that helps in the type of way I would like to isn’t going to be so hard as to make me try to start my own. So if anyone has any ideas or names they’d like to throw out at me, I’m all ears. :D
Another element brought to my attention was how important it is to teach viable skills rather than providing goods (not that providing goods is bad, but still – just keep reading). A very good example of this that really drove the familiar point home was TOMS shoes. Now I am a huge fan of TOMS and their charitable mission and will more than likely always advocate for them. HOWEVER, it is not uncommon for goods, such as shoes, to be given to those in need and the next week the same individuals who were ‘helped’ are again without. I’ll tell a little hear-say story to demonstrate this point. There was a woman who went to some country (I can’t remember which) where she observed many children without proper shoes for the frigid temperatures. After countless requests for help donations were made to buy some of the children shoes; soon after TOMS Shoes provided additional assistance. The next week however, the same children who received shoes were back to wearing their flip-flops and other unsuitable footwear (or none) because their new shoes were sold to buy food. Case in point, hand outs are great but when a greater necessity such as food is needed, things like shoes don’t mean much. I just thought this was really interesting and a good thing to be aware of.
Also, in case you hadn’t already guessed or noticed, I will be using this blog as a form of personal journal as well – so you’ll get to learn about all of my deepest, most secret thoughts and opinions – and you don’t even have to snoop!! Haha, ok not quite, but you get where I’m going with this I hope. Happy ‘spying’!