The NGO Sector: Thoughts on Shifting the Mindset of Donors

Philantopic Blog

By Shujaat Wasty

I was introduced to charity at a young age. My parents encouraged my siblings and me to put aside a portion of our weekly allowance for those in need and to volunteer during summer vacations. Those experiences were solidified when I learned how charitable my grandfather, a surgeon, had been and by witnessing my parents' own selflessness and generosity. Their example had a profound effect on me and helped define my interest in helping other people.

In addition to my professional career, I have been actively involved as a volunteer with local charitable initiatives and in the field of international development for several years, during which time I've been exposed to both the good and bad of charity work.

Charity, like most human activities, is not immune to corruption, ineptitude, or unprofessionalism. Traditionally understood to be virtuous deeds informed by compassion and empathy for the plight of those less fortunate, acts of charity are, at times, treated as little more than commodities in an ultra-competitive marketplace. The international "NGO industry" includes many players vying for ever-larger shares of the donor community's generosity, with some resorting to extreme measures. And the competition for limited financial resources is likely to intensify.

All of which begs the question: Should charities and nonprofits, many of which are working to address problems not of their own making, be held by donors to a higher — or different — standard? I don't know the answer. But I do think donors, and by extension the NGO sector, would be well served by considering the following:

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