The size and scope of the public sector can be daunting, with countless charities around the world trying to create a better future. But which one should you give your money to? With which non-profit organization will you be happiest aligning?
Answer: You’ll get the greatest satisfaction when you work with a charity that aligns with your values, communication style and level of commitment.
Here are three important factors to consider when evaluating these three criteria for charities:
First and foremost, donors need to consider their values and whether they’d like to align with a grassroots initiative or an institutional organization. A charity’s size and style of operations affects its very core, from interaction with donors to types of projects.
An NGO can be classified as bottom up or top down. A grassroots organization uses a bottom up approach, emphasizing local decision-making, community participation and individual movements. An institutional organization uses a top-down approach, focusing on lobbying/petitioning decision-making authorities (such as government agencies), macro-scale development projects, advocacy activities, etc.
A bottom-up approach values advocacy and awareness building efforts, community participation with every aspect of a development project, and active involvement in creating people-led initiatives. Grassroots organizations work tirelessly to connect with program participants in a genuine way. They want to be a non-profit ‘for the people, by the people’ and make many smaller changes that will one-day amount to a shift in society’s attitudes and norms.
A top-down approach focuses on increasing fundraising activity, obtaining support from governments, and implementing large-scale projects. Institutional organizations are rooted in rigid structure, defined operations, and high funded projects. These organizations want to make systemic transformations.
2. Organizational Structure
You should also consider your preferred style of communication from a charity when deciding where your money should go. Communication is determined by the organizational structure of a firm. How a business or charity organizes its management channels has a huge effect on how it interacts with its customers and the overall culture of the enterprise.
Are you more inclined to align yourself with a “tall company” with a vertical structure, or a “flat company” with a horizontal management structure?
Vertically structured businesses/charities have a chain of management with a CEO at the top making decisions and then delegating authority to lower-level managers. The firms have a “top-down” approach. On the other hand, horizontal firms have no mid-level managers; the high-level executives handle day-to-day tasks and personally interact with customers and on-the-ground employees on a regular basis.
If you like defined roles and efficiency, a vertical structure might align best with your values. That being said, vertical firms can lack transparency because of their many channels of communication and information-sharing can become muddled. The firms also risk being out of touch with the wants and needs of donors as they have fewer employees in direct contact with their donor base.
If you lean towards a door policy and teamwork mantra, a horizontally structured charity might be best for you. That being said, a horizontal management structure can make it more difficult to put processes in place because all workers are involved in the decision-making process, allowing for lots of colliding opinions. Furthermore, sometimes project managers can become frustrated by their own lack of authority and have leadership skills suffer as a result.
Take the time to consider your values in a charity; if you lean towards organization, clear-cut lines, and efficiency, a vertically structured organization is your best fit. Alternatively, if you gravitate towards a culture of community and a blend of different perspectives, go with a horizontal organization.
When thinking about your commitment level, you need to ask yourself what kind of donation you are looking to make. Is this a donation of money or time? If it’s money, is it a one-time gift or a monthly/annual act of charity? If it’s a donation of time, how much time can you commit? How do you want to spend the time you’ll give?
Let yourself consider in what capacity you want to donate to a non-profit organization. If it’s money, investigate organizations that have a project addressing a specific cause you’re passionate about or inspires you. If you want to donate time, look into organizations for which you’d enjoy volunteering. If you like pets for example, maybe an animal shelter is a good public sector option.
Whatever the cause, make sure you know what you want to give, and how much of it you want to give. We’re excited for you to find your perfect charitable fit!