Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ideas to Ponder: "Expiration Dates for Charities?"

NGOs are defined by the World Bank as "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development".

But isn't this definition too Utopian? 

To answer that question, lets see some figures:

The number of internationally operating NGOs is estimated at 40,000. National numbers are even higher: Russia has 277,000 NGOs; India is estimated to have around 3.3 million NGOs! 

3.3 million for 330 million poverty-ridden, socially backward people! That makes, an NGO for a group of 100 people each, and that too in a developing country like India. 

Nancy Lublin in her post in Fast Company wrote something like this: 

"Companies aren't supposed to be immortal. For-profits go out of business all the time, for reasons good and bad, from fierce competition to poor management to an inability to adapt. Lehman Brothers. Circuit City. Linens 'n Things. All dead!
Now try to name a closed not-for-profit."
Surely, there seems be some logic in her thinking. Because many of these NGOs had started for a short term cause, but after they achieved it, they still continue to exist! Why? 

There could many possible reasons for this:
1. These NGOs diversify themselves in other activities or scale-up their scope after achieving their goals. May be because they are eternal oriented! 
2. Or the motive to start the NGO itself has a hidden agenda (PR value, Tax savings, another source of corrupt income, etc...)
3. Or, these people become useless after working in an NGO, so that want do continue with it till they themselves expire!
So, why can't we have an expiration date for an NGO? 
The broader principle here is that companies and organizations don't exist simply to exist. A not-for-profit should ideally be not-for-perpetuity. We should not be donor-funded jobs programs. People give not because they believe in us as employable human beings but because they believe in what we do. Once we do it, we should wear a termination notice as a badge of honor.

It is 20th of many posts under "Ideas to Ponder series"Visit all of them here
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Read a related post: When we talk of doing charity
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