Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Time to Focus on Fulfilling Giver-Imposed Restrictions

One of the impacts of the disastrous Haiti earthquake will be a heightened focus on how ministries raise and use gifts given for Haiti-related programs. There will be stories about charities that operated outright scams. But the focus will also be on legitimate ministries and other charities. If you doubt this, simply think back to the events after 9/11 and the loss of credibility for charities that did not spend funds as promised. The Haiti earthquake highlights the importance of truthfulness in fundraising—a key ECFA standard. There are a wide variety of programs being delivered: disaster relief, development, church planting, child sponsorship, volunteer medical teams and much more. While some ministries are well-equipped to conduct church planting and child sponsorship, it could be disingenuous to represent that they provide disaster relief or post-disaster development process of rebuilding infrastructure and livelihoods. This is a time for organizations ministering in Haiti to perform a checkup:
  1. Do fundraising appeals (printed, web, and other media) clearly and accurately communicate the ministry your organization is prepared to perform?
  2. Will your ministry expend the gifts within a reasonable time period?
  3. If there is a possibility of raising more gifts than needed to carry out the project communicated to givers, did the fundraising appeals clearly state how any excess funds will be used?
  4. Does your organization raise funds for foreign charities providing services in Haiti? If so, you may be crossing the line into conduit transactions that may not result in a charitable gift for the giver.
  5. Does your organization raise funds for Haiti projects and make gifts or grants to foreign charities providing services in Haiti? If so, are policies and procedures in place to ensure proper oversight of the use of the funds?
So if your ministry is accepting funds for projects in Haiti, perform your due diligence now on what is being promised to givers, how you will track the gifts, how you will spend the funds, and how you will monitor the outcomes of the programs. It will be time well-spent.