Unseen Hierarchies

I sat in a funding meeting once with the Donor and a NPO we had partnered with, to do a particular project. Some history on this meeting, to set the scene; this project had taken me two years of research before even proposing it to anyone. In the end, I was offered funding by two different companies.  It was an exciting project, innovative and ground breaking.  After a lot of deliberation I had already turned down one of the donors, and was sitting in the meeting with the other donor. So in the meeting the donor looks at the proposal that he has agreed to and starts adding his own ideas, none of which would work for the project we wanted to implement, and would turn our project into something it was never meant to be. My NPO partner straight away started agreeing with the donor. The heat rose in my face, I was thinking how on earth I was going to manage to ask the other donor for the money again.  I was horrified that the other NPO leader was so easily swayed.  I decided I had to put my foot down – I really had nothing to lose with that donor.  I told him the reasons it would work my way and why his additions would not.   He listened and agreed.  The money, and respect, was ours.  If I had bent to his wishes we would have had a failed project and would have to explain to the donor why we did not deliver.  Not all money offers are worth taking.

Too long have the NPO’s been walking around with a begging bowl to see what scraps of funding they can gather, from whoever they can amass them from. This has resulted in an unseen hierarchy.  Businesses and Donors lord over NPO’s often dictating what they do in their programs, without understanding the “client” (the beneficiary).  NPO’s need to come to the realisation, truly realising, in their hearts, that they are the expert in their field. They know their community, their beneficiary, their cause, their social ill, inside and out.  They dedicate their lives to researching and resolving it. The outcome of their hard work is not a trade-able commodity and therefore they require donors to fund their work. Donors who hate the issue but are not called to do the work with the beneficiary directly become part of the solution by providing the funds to run the business of the NPO.   That is how the relationship works best.  Both are parties that that want to see the same result.  One is a capitalist venture that is there to make money, and as much of it as possible, and change the world for the better.  The other exists to care for the less fortunate, or voiceless and to change the world for the better.  The end goal is the same.  Let’s play to our strengths and find the right partners to do so.