Christian Not For Profit Critical Thinking

How does an individual, a church or business choose the correct Not-For-Profit Organization for partnership to accomplish their humanitarian goals? I trust this series will not solicit a hateful and unhealthy discussion about organizations that have lost your trust or made decisions that seemingly affect your personal standards or have veered away from a more traditional biblical mooring.

The intended purpose of this discussion is assist you to think through the critical issues involved in choosing the right partner to care for those who live in poverty and who are working through a crisis. I will assume that any organization you choose would care for people on both the physical and spiritual issues that they may be facing.

There are plenty of good choices that you can make. I will write from the experience and platform that I am privileged to serve each day as the Executive Director of CPR-3.

Organizations that serve in the sector of emergency services and serving the poor in developing countries have a moral obligation to be good stewards with the monies entrusted to them. The intent of any dollar given to either of these necessary services is that a high percentage of each dollar will go directly to the people who ‘need’ the money.

Every donor understands that an organization that serves in this space has overhead. Donors realize that an organizations like the one I lead could not offer the services desired to be carried out without leadership and structures to accomplish the best care possible for those in need.

Donors will choose an organization that lines up with their personal belief system. Most donors have a set of presuppositions about these organizations. Are they ‘faith-based?’ Do they follow a ‘best practice’ agenda? Are they ‘non-discriminating?’

CPR-3 is a small and relatively newer organization. There are large and long-standing organizations that have served in the Not-For-Profit space effectively and faithfully. I am quite confident that all of them are doing some level of good. The intent of the following is not to set one or the other up as better but to offer some thoughts that I hope will assist you in making the best decisions as it relates to you engaging in the humanitarian efforts that I believe is not only right, but required if you are a human being. This includes the ‘time’ you give to serve these organizations and the ‘money’ you entrust to them to carry out your intended purpose. We must be accountable.

Part One: Is “UNITY” the standard for compassion?
Compassion Without Compromise

At the core of humanity is compassion. If we are going to be like our creator then we must serve from a heart of compassion. I am excited to be a part of a faith based movement who holds to a biblical standard. The organization you choose should love all people and serve all people regardless of race, socio-economics and religion. A Christian ‘faith-based’ organization should stand committed to truth, compassion, loving people, all people and serving people, all people. A Christian Not-For-Profit should stand unified to carry out the mission of Jesus which is to show compassion to ‘all’ people who are in need. A Christian Not-For-Profit should never compromise the absolute authority from which we get our marching orders, the Bible. The Christian humanitarian should never lash out against organizations that are doing good. These organizations may not line up with where you stand but they are in fact doing good and caring for people. Each person, church or business should understand something about the organizations they ‘choose’ that will become the conduit of their humanitarian aid, that is your responsibility and privilege.

Choose an organization who models compassion without compromise.

Part Two: Are top charity organization leaders paid too much?
Fair Compensation or Over the Top Salaries?

This is a dangerous but necessary part of the discussion. A person who excels in his/her field is entitled to a fair compensation. If financial gain is the goal of a top executive in a charity organization, then perhaps he/she should leave the field of Charity and move into the ‘for profit’ sector. Charity organizations should be held to a higher standard. Charity organizations should aspire to excellence. The definition of excellence for a Christian Not-For-Profit is doing the best that they can with the resources they have to the 100% glory of God. These organizations are often resource poor, it should not be because the top executives are dis-proportionally taking too much from the overall budget.

In a recent study from Charity Navigator who supports the organizations it studies but holds those same organizations accountable and puts them into the light of the public as they should, reports in their study, not surprisingly, there is a predictable relationship between the size of a charity and the CEO’s salary – the larger the charity the higher the median pay. The median pay for the top leader in a not for profit charity is $125,942. Of the 3,929 charities studies, 9 paid their top executive greater than $1,000,000. 78 of those charities paid their top executive over half a million dollars.

Larger organizations that are working with thousands of employees and complicated systems, who are handling millions of dollars each year require and educated and experienced executive. There is nothing immoral about paying a top executive a fair wage. The hard question is what is a fair wage? The donor recognizes that the dollar they give are partly going to an over the top paid executive. Work hard to find an organization whose leader is trustworthy, competent and unselfish in his/her own desire. If they are that ‘valuable’ to a high paying charity, the executive will figure out other ways to make their personal endeavors meet their financial goals. A limit should be expected considering the people they are serving are the poor.

Choose an organization who is committed to both excellence and sacrifice and who understands its stated mission and stewards your dollars with the poor in mind.

Part Three: Are all “faith-based” organizations Christian?
Christo-Centric or Organization-Centric

There is a struggle for everyone’s dollars. Economics play too heavily in the decision making of ‘not-for-profits.’ We must do the right thing, not the popular thing. We must do the moral thing, not the financially advantageous thing. We all understand the idea behind ‘political suicide.’ If you take a public stand on certain issues, it may be grand, it may elevate your reputation within Christian circles but there is a strong chance that you will most likely not win the popular vote.

The same is true in as it relates to a Christian “Not-For-Profit.” There are Not-For-Profits that are not faith-based. There are Not-For-Profits that are faith-based and not Christian and there are Christian faith-based organizations. The organization should state without compromise where they stand. CPR-3 is a Christian Faith-Based Organization.

If you are Christian then you by definition follow Christ. His Word as we know it is called the Bible. God’s Word is our moral compass. In the pages of our manual are procedures from which we must operate. There is a moral code and within that code is an application. If the law is clear, meaning it is ‘black and white,’ then we adhere to it. If the law seems open to interpretation then we apply grace. We never condemn. We always love others. We never tear down others.

Christian organizations should stay true to their mission. The mission of Jesus is the Church. The Church should be set up to ‘win’ so long as it is pointing people to Christ. It is not about us. It is about the One in whom we choose to follow. The glory belongs to Jesus. The name of the organization, the name of the Church and the name of the donor should not be highlighted. The name of Jesus is the only name that should be famous.

God is no respecter of persons. He hung with sinners. He loved the poor. He reached out and touched the leper. When push came to shove, Jesus himself responded to the question, ‘of all the commandments, which ‘one’ is greatest?” His answer did not fit the question. He named ‘two.’ Love God and Love Your Neighbor! In modern day language we would say, love God and love people.

Choose an organization who sets up the Church to win and that Points people to the Love of Jesus.

Part Four: Has the Christian Not-For-Profit spread itself so thin that the end result is ineffectiveness?
Deeper not Wider
A Christian Not-For-Profit ‘is what it is.’ CPR-3 is without apology or compromise, a Christian Not-For-Profit. Just because an organization is “Christian” does not exempt it from caring for physical needs, nor is it exempt from loving people and other organizations regardless of their belief. We need each other. There are great organizations out there. To name a few, The American Red Cross, AmeriCorp, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, The Boy Scouts, World Vision, Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, Convoy of Hope, Compassion International, CPR-3. Some are big, some are small, some are Christian, some are not. I trust all of them are doing some level of good.

Our intent is not to be better than others. It is not to attack others who do not believe like we do. The goal of each organization is to be who they are and to stay true to its stated mission and values. The goal of each donor should be to know the organization they are giving their time, talent and treasure to, so they can be good stewards of their resources.

If an organization chooses to change their values, it should also be understood that the donor may or may not choose to change the organization they choose to steward their resources. You, the donor should serve and give fully believing in the organization of your choice. The choice is yours. The organization must respect your choice. You have many options.

I would hope that any Christian Not-or-Profit understands that one never wins the opportunity to care for a person’s spiritual need until they first meet the needs of people physically. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. It is equally true that we must truly love people first and foremost because they are people who are made in the image and likeness of our Creator. We don’t love them so that we can ‘evangelize’ them. We love them because the One that we have chosen to follow loves them and he loves them unconditionally.

Christian charities should be about mission not ministry. The problem with ‘ministry’ is that is done to people. It tends to be superficial. It tends to elevate one person over the other. It shows little dignity. It makes little difference and in fact often hurts more than it helps.

The mission of Jesus is to reach out with compassion and touch people in need. It is to sit with people in their homes and to build real relationships and friendships. It is not to ‘fix people,’ it is to come along side of people. The tension of opposites must be carefully navigated. The concept of ‘sustainability’ and the biblical principle of ‘being blessed to bless others’ are not enemies. Neither are they easy to work through. We are required to think and to act. Belief without practice is no faith at all. We must engage in the space of poverty and crisis. We must care for the real physical and spiritual needs of people.

The problem with most organizations that serve the poor or those affected by a crisis is that we have a ‘band aid’ approach coupled with a ‘I need to feel good’ agenda. Most of the funding for any particular crisis comes within the first three weeks of the date of the catastrophe. The charities are then held responsible to manage the realities of that crisis over a long period of time on whatever resources are raised in the early days. Donors give when their hearts are attached. Donors hearts are attached when pictures and stories are on the screens of our televisions. When the media dries up, so does the attention and the dollars. Do we really care?

Christian groups came in droves after the earthquake in Haiti. The dust has settled. Where are those same groups? Maybe the donor or service group feels better, but the effective change for the people in Haiti has not really been changed at all. Sometimes we give for the right reason, but we don’t watch our investment and build on it. When this is the case, the investment really was no investment at all. Sometimes we engage and serve because ‘our’ hearts are broken more than understanding how broken and desperate the people are that need our love, time and attention. Your long-term investment is needed. Your persistent presence is needed. The problem with ministry is that it is often a millimeter deep and far too wide. The focus on mission is building deeper relationships while balancing sustainable concepts with biblical principle.

Choose an organization that values partnership with you and has a proven track record of effectiveness. Choose an organization that gives you the opportunity to follow your dollar and gives you ownership in the mission.