2013, In Numbers
2013 was fun. Here is my year in numbers.
This video from World Vision is a little cheesy, but it’s a great overview of the devastating effects of undernutrition in a child’s first 1,000 days.
Mulu Asafa is showing off the spices she sells in an Addis Ababa market. She was formerly unemployed and unable to provide for her family, but she is a participant in @convoyofhope’s Women’s Empowerment program where she received business skills training and the seed capital required to start this business. After her first month in business, she is already turning a profit, putting money in savings, and putting food on the table on a daily basis. And like any good entrepreneur, she has plans for expansion. (at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
Congrats to the Red Sox. I hate seeing the Cardinals lose, but it makes it easier when it’s to a great team like Boston. And I got to be a part of something that hasn’t happened in 95 years at this historic park. (at Fenway Park)
The recently-restored boardwalk in Long Beach, Long Island on the anniversary of Sandy. (at Long Beach)
However, there is one overriding conclusion that has been carefully examined and analyzed. It is that the beneficial impacts attributable to school feeding are highly limited if one attempts to extract school feeding from the larger context of how learning, health, and livelihood outcomes are achieved. School feeding without the appropriate learning environment and family/community support is a weak intervention and its impacts are mostly restricted to food security outcomes. It follows, therefore, that a school feeding programme which does not systematically incorporate other strategic programmatic interventions that reduce the economic, social, and cultural constraints to health and learning will not generate the stated goals and objectives that substantiate and justify school feeding investments, such as the WFP Country Programme.
You are still young, free… Do yourself a favor. Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late.
― Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake
The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong
Dan Pallotta on what needs to change in the non-profit sector. Below is the transcript for the best parts of the talk.
So in the for-profit sector, the more value you produce, the more money you can make. But we don’t like nonprofits to use money to incentivize people to produce more in social service. We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interesting that we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping other people. You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.
Well, you put those five things together — you can’t use money to lure talent away from the for-profit sector, you can’t advertise on anywhere near the scale the for-profit sector does for new customers, you can’t take the kinds of risks in pursuit of those customers that the for-profit sector takes, you don’t have the same amount of time to find them as the for-profit sector, and you don’t have a stock market with which to fund any of this, even if you could do it in the first place, and you’ve just put the nonprofit sector at an extreme disadvantage to the for-profit sector on every level. If we have any doubts about the effects of this separate rule book, this statistic is sobering: From 1970 to 2009, the number of nonprofits that really grew, that crossed the $50 million annual revenue barrier, is 144. In the same time, the number of for-profits that crossed it is 46,136. So we’re dealing with social problems that are massive in scale, and our organizations can’t generate any scale. All of the scale goes to Coca-Cola and Burger King.
Now this ideology gets policed by this one very dangerous question, which is, “What percentage of my donation goes to the cause versus overhead?” There are a lot of problems with this question. I’m going to just focus on two. First, it makes us think that overhead is a negative, that it is somehow not part of the cause. But it absolutely is, especially if it’s being used for growth. Now, this idea that overhead is somehow an enemy of the cause creates this second, much larger problem, which is, it forces organizations to go without the overhead things they really need to grow in the interest of keeping overhead low.
So we’ve all been taught that charities should spend as little as possible on overhead things like fundraising under the theory that, well, the less money you spend on fundraising, the more money there is available for the cause. Well, that’s true if it’s a depressing world in which this pie cannot be made any bigger. But if it’s a logical world in which investment in fundraising actually raises more funds and makes the pie bigger, then we have it precisely backwards, and we should be investing more money, not less, in fundraising, because fundraising is the one thing that has the potential to multiply the amount of money available for the cause that we care about so deeply.
Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, “We kept charity overhead low.” We want it to read that we changed the world, and that part of the way we did that was by changing the way we think about these things. So the next time you’re looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams, their Apple-, Google-, Amazon-scale dreams, how they measure their progress toward those dreams, and what resources they need to make them come true regardless of what the overhead is. Who cares what the overhead is if these problems are actually getting solved? If we can have that kind of generosity, a generosity of thought, then the non-profit sector can play a massive role in changing the world for all those citizens most desperately in need of it to change.