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You can’t help everybody…

Every charitable cause is a good one and is typically launched with the intention of making the world a better place in some way.

The urge to see notable change can drive charity founders to want to help as many people as they can, but when launching your charity, one of the first things you must do is develop a thick skin. Whilst it’s admirable to want to help everyone you come across or hear of, unless your charity is underpinned from a trust fund or an initial donation worth millions, it’s unlikely you will be able to do this in the early days, which can lead to some heart-rending decisions.

As I suggested in this article, one way to reach/help more people more quickly is to consider partnering with another organisation that serves the same cause and champions for the same, or similar, changes. A joint campaign would have a much wider reach and you would have more hands on deck working to the achieve the end goal.

Sometimes, it’s not in the best long-term interests of your beneficiaries to try and help everyone. There have been many charities launch in the last decade, mostly because of local authority and national government cuts to front line services. However, whilst charities strive to fill these gaps, this takes the onus away from our government and absolves their responsibilities to apportion our taxes for the benefit of the UK population. The more that charities take on, the easier it is for local authorities, when calculating their budget, to wash their hands of the problem that exists, which means even more cuts and less support over the long term.

Then there’s another question: do you throw your donations, time and resources towards the symptoms of the problem or the cause? In the short term, the symptoms will seem the obvious choice; however, if nothing is done about the cause or no investment put towards changing it, the problem will still continue. Addressing the cause only could be argued as ‘being cruel to be kind’—but is the issue something that can be eradicated, or is it too big a hurdle to overcome? Would saying ‘no’ to people in need today allow you to stop anyone needing such support in ten years’ time?

Another argument is that treating the symptoms of people in need stops them making the necessary changes to escape their situation. It’s not enablement as such, but it is seen by some as prolonging the problem; of course, this is only some people’s view, and those who do have this belief are unlikely to be working in the third sector. That said, most people only make changes when they finally decide to do so. So, does that mean that everyone in need has this resolve within them, deep down, which just needs to come to the surface at the right time? It’s an interesting question. Of course, I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but these points genuinely stop some people from donating to charities.

Once you begin looking for beneficiaries, you will probably find more than your budget allows you to support. In this instance, how do you decide who gets your help and who doesn’t? This is where the thick skin comes in. Raising further funds to spread your support over a wider area is usually the tactic in this situation; however, this takes more time and effort, and possibly more people willing to help the cause to make this happen.

Certainly, concerning the majority of small, grass root charities I’ve come across, the founder often gives much more than you’d think, both financially and in terms of their time—because the cause is so close to their heart, and they can’t stomach the thought of anyone suffering. Believe me when I say the very best people with the biggest hearts work on the front line in the third sector. However, for a charity to make an impact that looks attractive to funders, it needs a strategic, often logical plan in place, and a determined argument as to why funds are being spent in the way they are. Emotion doesn’t come into these decisions very often, so it does actually benefit your organisation for you to be clear on the help it wants to give and the outcomes it hopes to achieve—because throwing money at the problem isn’t always the best way to lessen or curtail an issue.

Learning to say ‘no’ doesn’t mean you have a crevice where your heart should be or that you’re not cut out to run a charity—the exact opposite will be true. However, making the right decision for the people you’re trying to help or the problem you’d like to solve will be easier and more effective if it comes from your head rather than your heart.


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