Oprah’s Big Give, and what’s wrong with it

This is a remarkably good post about what’s wrong with Oprah’s Big Give. The comments, however, are some of the lamest I have ever seen. They run the gamut, from a classic Sernovitz, to just plain missing the point, to my favorite, “Why would you ever criticize someone who is trying to do good?”

I find the tone-deaf comments extremely frustrating. They demonstrate to me that no one is taking charitable giving seriously; that somehow people believe all projects are equally valuable and effective. Give a car to a restaurant manager or an impoverished veteran. It’s all the same. It’s charity! And charity is good!

Some projects are better than others.

It’s not just that different nonprofits do different things. Some charities are better at stretching their budget. Some have better methods. Some are led by better people. It’s not all the same, and it’s not all equally important. Money spent on bad charity is at best wasted and at worst damaging.

I’ve mentioned this before: good intentions are not enough.

ETA: Mike makes an excellent point in the comments – the author can’t seem to decide if he hates the rules of the show, or the contestants. It seems to me that he was trying to say that the show is rigged to fail, and fail it did, but that point doesn’t really come across clearly.

Amy Sample Ward’s Blog

Amy Sample Ward’s Version of NPTech. Amy Sample Ward’s blog is a really exceptional resource on nonprofit technology, particularly fundraising and the web. I’m sending a link to a couple old employers who could use the info.

In general, I find blogs like this really energizing because they are about what works to motivate people and bring them together, which can lead to insight on a lot more than fundraising and advocacy.

Links worth looking at

I am traveling, and I’m not sure what kind of internet access I will have to update. I’m offering up a bunch of interesting links to keep everyone busy in my (possible) absence.

1) The Children of War Rescue Project actually has a dayblog listing day-to-day activities. It is an amazing exercise in transparency, and also a great way for outsiders to learn more about what NGOs do. If you are thinking you’d like to work for an international NGO, just following along the posts is like a mini-internship.

The marketer in me thinks that they could be using this dayblog more for promotional purposes. Right now it doesn’t even have a link to their main project website. They should also explicitly describe it as an exercise in transparency, and have donors look at it to see what they do.

2) Paul Graham on the overlap between nonprofits and companies. I am consistently impressed by his ideas, and this is a great think piece on what makes a company and what makes an nonprofit. I have long held that the major difference between an international NGO and a company is tax status and no more. It is interesting to see someone else’s similar take.

3) Soap operas changing family size in Brazil. This article makes me twitch in different directions. On the one hand, it justifies the educational soap operas I used to help produce. On the other hand, what kind of unintended effects is TV having on our society? Since almost none of it is designed to do anything good. In fact it seems to me designed to make us meet more junk food and buy stuff…maybe I don’t have to just wonder what effect it is having.

The Nonprofiteer

I love The Nonprofiteer. She is full of useful advice on running a non-profit organization. At lot of her ideas apply as much to a major NGO doing international development work as they do to the kind of domestic nonprofits she focuses. I especially love her advice column, and they way her answers are detailed plans you could act on. This post, on finding board members, is especially helpful.

Work, for love and for money

A blog posting about nonprofit staff members. Far too often, nonprofits pay badly and expect their staff to expect it, because you do nonprofit work for love. It seems to me, though, that you’re stuck with a much smaller pool of candidates if you are only looking for people who’ll do the work for love. Better to pay enough you can pull from all quality candidates.