13 August 2009 ~ 0 Comments

NGO Program Success as the new Stock Market (dividends paid in “warm fuzzies”)

These thoughts are in response to this blog on “Tales from the Hood”.

“If you are somehow involved in aid work and receive any form of compensation, the fact is that you benefit.” – I think we are missing the discussion about the MAIN way we benefit, and if we miss that, than maybe we shouldn’t be here.

Those who believe passionately in the changes they are working to make in the world are compensated by the steps they see made towards those changes. If we don’t view that as the highest form of compensation we get, then maybe this isn’t the right field for us.

If we want the programs we are working on to succeed so that we can get more money and get promoted and get better compensated, aren’t we looking at this the wrong way? I think a key to the most successful development work might be leaders (local or non) who LOVE what they do and benefit so much emotionally from the success of their projects because the believe in the CAUSE they are trying to improve. High or low salary, if positive changes are the currency of success, then program success will become the NGO stock market.

Let’s talk about that level of honesty. If we want to improve the causes we believe in, I think we should continue to:

– make sure we are in a field where we get great emotional reward from the work we do – because our passion to make change will be a better divining rod for the right decisions than a desire to increase our bank account size

– be honest about the things we see – the things going wrong in our own work and in the work around us when others ask, or even when they don’t, and work to improve the movement for the causes we work in. Let’s not just view other groups as “competitors” or look away from those in the same field who are “getting it wrong”. Let’s be honest with them and those around us and help them become better too… because in the end, if we put the cause above our own pay check and our own organization, then we will be rewarded by feelings of accomplishment when the greater cause is improved – no matter who gets the credit.

– work ourselves out of a job. Try NOT to pay ourselves more from donor dollars which could be going to improve the causes we believe in but find socially innovative models which can bring us incomes which do not redirect further donor dollars into our pockets.

We can’t all do all of these all the time, but we can all AIM towards all of these things. If we make our decisions by

1) being honest with ourselves and others that we do this BECAUSE we get rewarded by making changes we believe in (and if we don’t, this might not be the right field for us)


2) be open with ourselves about the fact that those of us who get paid by NGO money are getting paid with funds which were intended to be used to “help the poor’ or whatever the cause is so it is our obligation to use our power to do that

…then we should hopefully have the right perspective going into our work. In that way, we can take criticism the way everyone else does – the way a business person who believes in their product does, who is hurt to hear that their is criticism about their work but who wants to hear it and take action to remedy the problem because at the end of the day our egos are not what we are working to increase produce.

We will recognize that we are very over compensated for our work if we put the positive changes we want to see in the world first and recognize that we pay ourselves dividends in “warm fuzzy” feelings as we slowly inch towards those goals.

(I recognize that the initial reaction of many will be that “warm fuzzies” do not put food on the table. I argue that if the warm fuzzies are not enough to make you want to take on a second job to be able to still do the work you do, work harder to increase the impact of a social venture that brings impact and funds into your work, or would be so hard to walk away from because they represent work you believe whole-heartedly in, then perhaps it is time to change fields, improve the work that you are doing, or higher someone to replace you who believes in the work and can do it better for a lower price. Yes, we need to get paid, but if we do not believe so passionately in the work that we are doing that it drives us to do it better and more efficiently, then perhaps looking for higher paychecks elsewhere is indeed a better option.)