Friday, December 10, 2010

A Reality Check on Giving

On the one hand, nonprofits succeed because kind volunteers donate time and kind patrons donate money.  But two recent news reports show how some organizations take advantage of the good intentions of kind people.

In “Frazzled Moms Push Back Against Volunteering” (, New York Times reporter Hilary Stout reports the stories of several mothers who burned themselves out as volunteers for their childrens’ schools.  One even continued volunteering at the school after her children transferred to another school.  Two common threads in these stories: mothers felt a heightened sense of responsibility for their volunteer jobs and schools often took advantage of their willingness to volunteer. 

In “When Donations Go Astray” (, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof warns that not all charities use kind donations for the purposes that donors intended, including some well-known charities like Feed the Children, which is embroiled in a number of lawsuits and investigations over inappropriate use of funds. 

As both Stout and Kristof advise, most organizations treat their volunteers well and use donations for the purposes for which they’re intended.  But even the best organizations can go off-course so volunteers and donors should always make sure their gifts are being used appropriately.  

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