Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Don't be guilt-tripped into changing your mission.

In an article posted to their website today, Philanthropy News Digest passes on the information that a report has found that family foundations lag behind in social justice funding.

Reports like this abound in every sector. In general they tend to reflect the bias or mission of the agency or organization that commissioned and compiled the report.

Most people and organizations know that and just will shrug this off and move on, but inevitably some will react by deciding that they are somehow in the wrong.

A few years ago, a client was profiled in a newsletter as being "unsympathetic" to minorities because they chose to focus on developing job skills and teaching low-income folks the value of having marketable workplace skills. The gist of the original article was that their programs didn't reflect  the national ratios regarding racial distribution.

Their programs were not defined by race or gender. The only qualifier to participate in the training was to be un- or under-employed and have an annual income below the poverty level.

Unfortunately for the NPO, the majority of the people that responded were white females. Not too surprising, since females are normally the caregivers in single parent homes and the minority population in their area was low, but it gave the group that published the newsletter ammunition for the presses.

After several weeks of heated social media back-and-forth, the board of the targeted NPO  met and decided to develop a minority-only program within the main program. They reasoned that would not only get the critics off their back, but open up new and perhaps better sources of funding.

It didn't work out very well.

First, they had trouble attracting minority participants. Since that had been a problem from the start, a disproportionate amount of time was spent to reach out to that segment of the population, and the main program outreach suffered accordingly.

Second, when they had to provide racial breakdown information for their program participants and graduates, i.e. their outcome results, they remained weighted toward white females. Hardly surprising, since the total minority population, i.e. all other races, of their service area was under 27%.

After struggling with the problem for three years and watching their funding fall by 35%, the board voted to resume operations as they had been prior to the bad press

The moral to this tale?  Do what you do and do it well. You can't please all of the people all of the time.

Political winds change constantly. If your programs are sound, needed and most of all effective, the money will be there.

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