Destroying the Charity You Love?

Five Donor Misconceptions That Thwart Mission

Charities are organized for public benefit, and most of them survive on the goodwill of people like you. Donors and volunteers are fundamental to their ability to operate. After working with non-profits for more than 10 years, I’ve encountered several commonly-held beliefs of donors that, while originating from good intentions, can actually hinder the mission of charities.

1) He’s making what???  Every once in a while, we hear a public outcry about the salary of an executive at a large charity. Certainly, there may be instances where the salary is simply inappropriate, but large charities need well qualified, competent executives who can lead an organization in a way that maximizes their reach and impact. While the concern is that donations are used for cushy salaries, money spent compensating truly good leadership should mean that your dollar goes further. Note: Within charities, the board of directors is responsible for researching comparable salaries, setting the salary range, and approving the overall budget.

2) Shouldn’t they want to do more? The majority of staff at non-profits are underpaid for the work that they do, and they are often expected to fulfill multiple full-time roles. While I was directing a non-profit that required evening and weekend work (on top of the regular work week), I was often surprised by the expectation of supporters that I should want to or be willing to do even more because I was working for a good cause. The reality is that many good-hearted people work for charities, they are constantly faced with great needs, and they do much more than what is required of them.

3) Who needs the lights on? There’s a general rule of thumb for non-profits in the U.S. that administrative costs should be right around 10% of the total budget. From a donor’s perspective, yes, that sounds like it maximizes benefit to the people being served. The reality is that it may not be. The ultimate goal is to maximize the mission and reach of the organization. If budgeting 20% for strong infrastructure means a charity can provide high-quality services to a larger group of people, that’s a good thing!

4) Isn’t it about me? People want to feel good about donations of their money and time. A good charity will understand that and will align their efforts to help donors and volunteers know that they are doing good. Sometimes, however, the greatest needs of a charity are not those that produce warm fuzzy feelings. I would meet prospective volunteers and, regardless of their skill set, most wanted to work directly in programs. We found an administratively strong volunteer who committed to one day of donation processing each week. She did an incredible job, and her work strengthened the foundation of the organization and freed resources to be spent on programs that helped kids.

5) Why wouldn’t they want my stinky old shoes? I’ve received some very interesting in-kind donations from very well-meaning people… the equivalent to dirty, stinky, ratty shoes. Most charities welcome in-kind donations, just be sure to ask what the charity needs and try to donate “gently used” or “like new” items, which will uphold the dignity of the people on the receiving-end of your donation.

One of my former board members helped me understand that within a charity, everyone needs to stay focused on the mission of the organization, over their own egos and over their own agenda, in order to achieve the greatest good. That same concept applies to donors and volunteers. Keep a focus on the mission of the organization. Maybe at times, that mission is best achieved by a highly paid leader, by allowing for higher administrative costs, or by giving your time or money to something that is boring but necessary. Your favorite charities cannot survive without the devotion and commitment of many people like you!

-Lindsey Markelz, CEO & Co-Founder

Tellings Stories to Create Change


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This week’s featured charity, Media4Good, uses media to tell stories that raise awareness, empower women and children, and create sustainable initiatives.

Media4Good girlsOne of their videos tells the story of a woman, a leader among the untouchables of India, who has worked to secure land for the poor. Her organization has developed homes that are owned in the names of women, which guarantees them security, decision-making power in the community, and a good future for themselves and their children. Their land is currently threatened by development plans. Click here to watch this story and find other videos produced by Media4Good.

Through their work in several countries, Media4Good has facilitated the development of sustainable initiatives. Within the U.S., their program called Youth Interactive provides support and education to youth in Santa Barbara while also partnering them with local artists so that together, they can design and create goods that can be sold to support ongoing programs while teaching youth about entrepreneurship. Check out products that support their work, handcrafted by women in India to support themselves and their families.

Pink Baby Quilt 2

15 Year Old Artist

The Mtaala Foundation’s mission is to “create and support education communities for vulnerable children and at-risk youth, including those affected by war, poverty, and HIV/AIDS.”  They work with their Educational Partner, Awegys School to reach children that would otherwise not have the support and resources they need to finish school.

Find paintings and jewelry on Charity Gift Market that support Mtaala, including one painting called “Smiling Drums” (pictured below) by Jackline.

Nakayima Lodrine - Version 2Mtaala staff explained, “Jackie is 15 years old and in Senior Four. She currently lives at Awegys School and, when at home, stays in her father’s house with her siblings. Her mother died in 2004 from cerebral malaria. In her free time, Jackline likes watching football (soccer) games and reading. Her favorite subject in school is commerce, and she hopes to attend university to become a nurse.”

“In order for me to achieve my goals I should read hard,” Jackline writes. “I would love to lead a successful life and ask for your help and love.”Smiling Drums Painting

New Home for Cancer Patients in Augusta


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Starting in 2003, The Lydia Project provides free services to women facing any type of cancer anywhere in the world. The Mission of The Lydia Project is to serve women facing cancer by providing hand-crafted tote bags, prayer and ongoing progress copy

Soon, the Daksha Chudgar Lydia House will serve not only the Augusta area but also the entire states of Georgia and South Carolina. Any woman needing chemo or radiation treatment in the Augusta area, and who can not travel or pay for lodging can apply to stay in the home. The house will improve patients’ quality of life; alleviate suffering; and contribute to the basic human dignity of women fighting cancer physically and financially. This much needed patient service will especially save lives for women who might not receive daily treatments if not for Lydia’s lodging.

If you are in the area, The Lydia Project invites you to check it out! Drive by and see the house progress at: 1369 Interstate Parkway, Augusta, 30909

In addition to lodging, the second floor will house all operations of The Lydia Project. Volunteers and patients will be able to enjoy fellowship and work on Lydia projects. The new location will offer needed space for support groups, a community meeting space, and much needed room for counseling services, educational programs, and a resource library for women fighting cancer.

This content is posted on and shared from The Lydia Project website.

Shop and Support The Lydia Project

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Young Photographers


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100cameras is a non-profit based in New York City that helps children in communities around the world to express themselves through photography. This story was posted by 100cameras about a young woman in their program named Jansi.

The camera has a magical, transformative power when placed in the hands and creative hearts of our young photographers.

jansi.jpgLet us share with you the story of Jansi, a seemingly shy young woman that sat quietly in the back during the first few classes. In our third class, we asked everyone to share their future ambitions along with photos that helped communicate their interests. Jansi was one of the first to break the silence and share that she aspired to become a nurse because she liked to take care of people and that photography helped her express her desire to see things in a better light.

Regardless of the devastating effects of poverty and AIDS on her family, Jansi found confidence in proudly sharing about her future dream to help others. Her shy persona continued to transform as we saw her boldly begin to express herself through the photography and journalism assignments, constantly exclaiming gratitude that her photos will raise money to serve the needs of other children. She has a sensitivity to spirituality that she says has given her strength through the tragic trials in her life, and her love for people has translated into her photography as her primary subject matter is people.

Once a reserved young lady, she now lives her passion out loud with her self-declared mantra stating, “Love each other, and everything will be happy.”

Jansi’s story is one among many. Russ Foundation director, Berlin Jose, believes that the impact of 100cameras will be a lasting one for all the children, “Their outlook towards other people, other objects, how they view the world, will forever be changed”.

Shop for greeting cards, prints and t-shirts that support the work of 100cameras with kids like Jansi.


Holiday Cheer Goes Global


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Want to buy the perfect last minute holiday gift, spreading holiday cheer locally and worldwide? We’ve got you covered! Consider purchasing a CharityGiftMarket gift certificate. Friends and family get to choose from a wide selection of great gifts and all proceeds from their purchases go to support some pretty remarkable charities. Need some more convincing? Take a look at some of the phenomenal products we have in the shop!!

Ornament*Keza Ornament
This product was handmade by a single mother who needed an escape from prostitution, begging, stealing, and abusive relationships. Proceeds from the sale of these products also provide scholarships to the best and brightest students in East Africa.

Fashion*Mto Mti Necklace *Recycled Starbucks Tote *Infinity Scarf

PurseAccessories*Black Lace Crochet Bag *Color Block Wallet *Just Shea Lips

Instead of guessing what your siblings or in-laws might want this holiday season, let them choose for themselves! Purchase a gift certificate here and contribute to variety of fantastic charities that do the world a world of good.

-Liz Crowder

Buy Her Bag Not Her Body


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Nomi Network began with a simple embrace. While visiting a rehabilitation center for sexually abused/trafficked children in Cambodia, Alissa Moore and Diana Mao (Nomi Network’s founders) were enthusiastically welcomed by a young girl named Nomi. She smiled and threw her arms around them, befriending them immediately. Nomi is mentally disabled and her advocates at the shelter believe that the abuse she endured worsened her mental state. Inspired by Nomi, her spirit and her story, this non-profit was created to help sex-trafficked women in Cambodia and India make a sustainable living, and a positive impact in their communities.

Nomi Network’s mission is to train the women to develop high quality, fashionable products, while the organization works with recognized retailers and designers to advertise the products, and raise awareness about the horrors of sex-trafficking.

Blue Brush white_1Nomi Network also works to restore identity, self-image and confidence to the women, through photography. Dubbed Project Beauty, this self-esteem building initiative pampers the women with a make-over and a new wardrobe for the day, and sets up a photo-shoot where they are captured as beautiful, dignified human beings, rather than objects.

176937_10151138294723803_302210651_oI’ll end with these uplifting words from Nomi Network’s founders: Our goal is to create 100,000 jobs for women at risk and survivors of trafficking by 2025. But more importantly than the numbers, we hope that one day each of the beautiful women we work with will be able to hold their head up high and say with dignity, “know me, know my story, know my success”!

100% of the profits from Nomi Network’s product sales are directly invested back into training and education opportunities for the women they serve. Shop to put an end to poverty and sex-trafficking by clicking here!

-Liz Crowder

Life After Attacks by the LRA


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Project Have Hope works with a group of women and children in the Acholi Quarter of Uganda, an area that that is now home to many who had been in the clutches of the Lord’s Resistance Army for decades in their home territory in Northern Uganda. Although the LRA, a rebel army led by Joseph Kony and known for its brutality, abductions and use of child soldiers, has moved into other central African nations for the time being, the Acholi Quarter is home to many internally displaced persons still reeling in the wake of the destruction of their security, homes, identities, and lives.

PHH offers a variety of programs to help the women and their families create a sustainable living, from a paper bead jewelry business, to an educational program. A vocational studies program is also offered, where PHH partners with local schools to teach the women who want to continue their studies or learn specific, marketable skills. Courses have included catering, hairstyling and salon management, tailoring, knitting, computer and general office skills studies, and driver’s education.

Atim Mille Grace completed a 6-month long catering course, receiving a $1,500 loan from PHH upon completion. She now owns and runs a wildly successfully restaurant located in a busy marketplace called “Rubanga Makwo” or “The Living God” (pictured below). Atim even does catering for weddings, graduations and community gatherings and makes prepared food for local, high-end hotels.
A total of 11 women have completed a one year course in tailoring and all have received loans from PHH to start their own workshops. Most of the graduates are working from home where they can care for their families’ needs while growing their businesses. One of these women, Aciro Santina, has developed a business selling her creations in her home village in Sudan. She currently earns about $2knitting5 per month. Lamunu Margaret makes new clothes but also mends and alters clothes for her clients within the Acholi Quarter. She now earns $50 per month. Lanyero Jennifer’s business has become so successful that she has rented a store front on the main road of the Acholi Quarter. Customers flock to her growing business. She earns over $75 per month.

Shop here to bring hope to these women this holiday season and help them rebuild their lives.fabric & leather purses copy

Palpably Profound


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UrbanPromise International prepares emerging leaders to initiate, develop, and sustain Christian-based youth development organizations and to seed their new ministries as they serve vulnerable children and teens in our world’s most under-resourced communities.

For example, in 2009, former UPI interns, Blair Quinius and Matt Wall decided to take the UrbanPromise Model to the town of Copan Ruinas, Honduras where the need for after- school programs and camps became evident due to the quickly burgeoning success of their pilot program. To see a little bit more of what UrbanPromise Honduras is all about, check out the video below:

UPI aims to lead each of their organizations (organizations similar to UPH) to autonomy and sustainability, assisting them with communications and donor relations, fundraising, accountability, and developing support networks. They’ve even partnered with a local coffee distributor in Copan Ruinas, Honduras to roast, package, and sell “Promise Beans” to help support their work.

The concept is simple, and the effects are palpably profound. It’s all about people empowering people to help other people. Check out UPI products here to jump in on the goodwill cycle, and pay it forward.

-Liz Crowder

Urban Promise Honduras 2

Freeing Hearts, Changing Lives


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The cold, hard facts are these: Forty-eight women are raped in Congo every hour. Every 26 seconds a child is taken from their home and forced into the sex industry. Some women are forced into prostitution in order to stay alive and are consequently outcasts, ostracized by society. Enter: Zion Project, an international 501c3 ministry whose mission is to offer counseling and teachings for girls and women caught in the global sex trade and communities affected by war.

ZP is of the belief that iZion Projectn order for war torn societies to truly recover, healing needs to stem from love, and come from the inside, out. Stella, a woman who attends ZP’s counseling seminar program, says, “Without the healing I wouldn’t have been able to learn the skills I have now, so I needed to learn that first to be successful. Now my heart is free.”

Based in the war ravaged area of northern Uganda, Zion Project also facilitates a Rescue Home program, a holistic after-care home for 17 young girls ages 5-15 who have been used, abandoned and abused in childhood prostitution. They’ve created the socially-conscious Jewelry business as well, where the women handcraft jewelry, taking pride in the fact that they can sustain themselves without selling their bodies, and create something fashionably beautiful in the process.

View some of the gorgeous, fair-trade jewelry below:
Safari NecklaceSafari

Chama Necklace


Shop here to support Zion Project’s multiple missions to spread the love, empower women and children, and help repair the emotionally (and physically) damaging effects that sex-trafficking has.

-Liz Crowder