I recently read a book by Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save. In this book he talks about how we can make a global difference in poverty and how a small amount of money can go a long way in saving lives. When I read that book and think about the work of an organization like Charity Navigator, it appears that there may be a ranking of different kinds of nonprofit work as more valuable.
An unspoken ranking system that I’ve seen developing is: global poverty, global health, local poverty, then education and healthcare, then the arts. This kind of unspoken ranking concerns me, and I am really curious what you think. From a purely financial perspective, I can understand the cost benefit of saving the most lives with the least amount of dollars, but that line of thinking would make me believe that the value of life is based only on how much it costs to live. It might cost $15,000 to save someone in a local hospital, or $5,000 to keep a homeless person off the streets. Should these people be forgotten because we could save 100 people in another country for the same amount of money? I guess I would say no, as a fundraiser. I hope we can raise money to help people locally and globally, and I’m glad that there are organizations and donors in both groups.
I believe that the world of fundraising is big enough for us all, and I am glad that there are a number of different kinds of organizations that can reach out to donors’ individual passions. The pull to save the most lives or make the “biggest difference” does speak to me in a unique way. How can nonprofits that do not serve the poorest of the poor make their message just as powerful? This brings us back to why we give. The power to address needs in your own community will often trump the needs of those we don’t know or to whom we feel no connection. Nonprofits need to be able to do a good job reaching out to the donors in their backyard, so to speak.
Do you think that one sector of nonprofit work deserves money more than another? Is there an unspoken ranking of nonprofits with your donors or in your community?