The “How” Behind the “What”
Much Ado About SomethingOnce upon a time, when the world was smaller and less complicated… when a handshake actually meant something and a man’s word was his bond, people gave freely from the abundance of their lives and goodness of their hearts. They implicitly trusted in the idea of “goodwill toward men” on the merits of the idea alone. There was trust in the idealism of causes because the people running them were just across town. You could look them in the eye, share a meal together, or visit with them on Sunday afternoon.
Those times have long since come and gone.
Welcome to the FutureBecause of the technological chasm that now separates modern donors from the organizations they support, new measures are needed to create the kind of trust that once existed in the small towns of early America. In the new, new world, we are surrounded on all sides by an explosive and ever-expanding media landscape that is screaming at us to ‘pick up the phone’ and ‘act now!’
For creatures as essentially simple as we humans are, it is a mind-numbing place to be. Donors are increasingly in need of systems that protect them from becoming mindless enablers of corruption, well-intended catastrophes, or ego-driven fiefdoms.
Now more than ever, people who want to make a change in the world need to believe in the organizations that they support.
SustainabilitySustainability is a term that is tossed around a lot. This started when marketing firms began telling organizations that donors now have greater expectations for their money. In an attempt to stand out from the crowd and be heard, non-profits started using the term “sustainability” to differentiate themselves from others… and for a while that seemed to work.
Unfortunately, while the word “sustainable” is easy to find, the actual proof of functional sustainability is much, much harder to come by. In truth, a saddening number of organizations are confusing sustainability with long-term partnerships, legacy grants, large donor bases, good intentions, or the IDEA of sustainability.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with these approaches, they do not deserve to be called sustainable.
You Say Potato – I Say CheeseburgerThe words that we use actually matter.
Consider a project that has been labeled “sustainable” on an organization’s website when in reality… it isn’t. On the receiving end, the people who are being served are not truly self sufficient, but rather, reliant upon the organization for their survival.
Finding a benefactor who will underwrite the expense of your life may seem like a dream come true on the surface, but it never ends well.
When you boil away all of the nuanced problems that are created, the people being served are fundamentally not in control of their destiny… and there is nothing beautiful about a person who has been robbed of their freedom through the chains of their needs.
What’s Under The HoodThe truth is, any organization that operates exclusively on donations is making a silent confession; by doing little more than waiting for your check to clear they are admitting that they don’t know how to actually solve problems. It’s a weak position to maintain in a world that desperately needs everyone to carry some weight.
At Fireside International, we believe that charity is wonderful… but only for a short time. With regard to long-term, truly sustainable approaches, we take a decidedly different approach to making solutions last.
Our approach starts by addressing problems only if we feel genuinely capable of contributing to their solutions… and solutions only deserve to be called solutions if they can eventually stand on their own two feet.
Most of the initiatives that we touch will eventually be expected to maintain itself through the model of “Social Business” as defined by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Muhammad Yunus (see resources below for more information on Social Business).
While many of our initiatives do require seed capital to get started, it is our commitment that every initiative will at some point be self-sustained. If the initiative is unable to achieve this status, it will be allowed to fail. At that point, new ideas will move forward and be given the opportunity to mature. Through this simple, evolutionary process, only the most viable initiatives will succeed.