Sunday, June 28, 2009
I think all of us have gotten dozens of holiday letters from our friends which extol the virtues of their beloved children: "Donny was voted most likely to succeed, won state in basketball, and scored a 1600 on his SAT....Lisa won the national junior golf title, saved an elderly lady's life, and is now fluent in four languages." Just once I would love to see a holiday letter that said, "my daughter is flunking chemistry and my son just sits around all day playing video games and eating Taco Bell." I think I would find that pretty refreshing.
I think most charities fall into this same "holiday letter" mentality, in as much as we are hesitant to ever post a mistake or say that a project isn't going well. Since all charities are run by humans, I would have to think that just about every charity learns through experience, often the hard way. But you would rarely know that from charity blogs or websites. We are just as guilty of this as everyone else, of course. Our blogs and newsletters are filled with positive success stories, which thankfully we have a lot of. But we certainly have matured our programs by learning real lessons when things didn't go as planned. For example, we recently tried a "halfway house" program for young ladies aging out of their orphanage. We renovated an apartment, hired a house mom, encouraged them in every way to live on their own.....and it didn't work. Despite our absolute best intentions and a lot of hard work....the project didn't go the way we had hoped.
So how do you feel about charities being honest in telling things like they are? Do you prefer to only know the good? Or would you want to know if you gave to a project and it didn't work out? I have often wished that some of the groups that I gave money to with little results after Hurricane Katrina would just say with complete sincerity, "we know we messed up." I think most people can understand and forgive just about anything when people are honest. Or do you think that charities need to project an always perfect image to keep their donors committed?