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Archive for October, 2010

There’s a housing boom in my neighborhood in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and throughout Asia. Every morning a blue truck rolls down the street, bounces to a halt in a lot outside my window, and delivers a dozen construction workers, rain or shine. It seems that no matter where you are, some nearby house is going up, coming down, or changing its look.

Housing is a major piece of Asia’s socio-economic puzzle. It’s an industry that employs vast numbers of people. It’s a huge challenge in city planning. To Asia’s growing population of low-income home buyers, housing represents many things: opportunities, an asset, and an achievement. Housing is also one nexus of the citizen sector, where social entrepreneurs are changing the very rules of the puzzle itself.

Here are 3 examples:

WorkersRajiv Khandelwal is an inspiring social entrepreneur in India, a vast land with 100 million rural, seasonal migrant workers.  He founded Aajeevika Bureau to help workers from rural Rajasthan and Gujarat to construction sites in distant towns.  His clients are not only seeking opportunities in the city, but adapting to some major change in their previous way of life, especially the steady agricultural decline. Rajiv’s take is straightforward: rather than try to prevent seasonal migration—which doesn’t work—  India should help its migrants thrive.

Cities – As houses go up and cities expand, urban annoyances can mushroom into major problems in city life. Noise pollution is one example.  Sumaira Abdulali is a courageous citizen of Mumbai who is putting together India’s first citizen-led effort to curb noise pollution. Her Awaaz Foundation is bringing to the forefront the issue of noise control in city planning—controlling the noise emitted by the booming cranes and shovels.

New Rules – The housing boom offers an avenue for Asia’s poor to own decent housing, but the barriers to ownership must be removed. This is the goal of Ashoka’s own Housing for All program, which lines up commercial deals to provide goods and services, capital and financing, and marketing for a very low income housing market, typically people working in the informal sector such as market vendors and rickshaw drivers.  Ashoka’s program is demonstrating that such deals can work, by bringing together the right lenders, builders, and social entrepreneurs.

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The issue of fundraising costs is always a tough one for the profession. It’s a very emotional issue, as we’re talking about dollars that donors have given away freely of their own will with the expectation that they’re supporting a charitable cause.

It’s also a very nuanced issue. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money, and that adage is proven time and time again in charitable fundraising. Given all of the various factors that affect fundraising, it’s impossible to devise one universal, set-in-stone fundraising cost limit that would apply to all organizations.

Fortunately, governments are starting to realize this. For example, the Canada Revenue Agency, in its fundraising cost guidelines that were developed last year, specifically acknowledges that fundraising costs can vary dramatically annually and that organizations with higher costs aren’t necessarily unworthy organizations.

Unfortunately, some media outlets still don’t do the research or simply don’t have the interest to understand the nuances of fundraising costs. A good example is a recent article by the CBC on fundraising contracts by for-profit solicitors, or as the article terms them, third-party fundraisers.

There’s SO much to not like about the article—inaccurate comparisons between costs and funds raised, complete misunderstanding of the difference between fundraisers and solicitors, lack of discussion about telemarketing fundraising costs, and key information about the scope of telemarketing by solicitors buried in the middle of the article. AFP responded to the CBC with this letter, and has also developed some talking points that fundraisers can use for their own responses or when speaking with donors and members of the public.

The issue of fundraising costs is always a tough one for the profession. It’s a very emotional issue, as we’re talking about dollars that donors have given away freely of their own will with the expectation that they’re supporting a charitable cause.

It’s also a very nuanced issue. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money, and that adage is proven time and time again in charitable fundraising. Given all of the various factors that affect fundraising, it’s impossible to devise one universal, set-in-stone fundraising cost limit that would apply to all organizations.

Fortunately, governments are starting to realize this. For example, the Canada Revenue Agency, in its fundraising cost guidelines that were developed last year, specifically acknowledges that fundraising costs can vary dramatically annually and that organizations with higher costs aren’t necessarily unworthy organizations.

Unfortunately, some media outlets still don’t do the research or simply don’t have the interest to understand the nuances of fundraising costs. A good example is a recent article by the CBC on fundraising contracts by for-profit solicitors, or as the article terms them, third-party fundraisers.

There’s SO much to not like about the article—inaccurate comparisons between costs and funds raised, complete misunderstanding of the difference between fundraisers and solicitors, lack of discussion about telemarketing fundraising costs, and key information about the scope of telemarketing by solicitors buried in the middle of the article. AFP responded to the CBC with this letter, and has also developed some talking points that fundraisers can use for their own responses or when speaking with donors and members of the public.

High fundraising costs are definitely an issue, and I have no problem with the CBC investigating them. In fact, I think it would be interesting to find out how many of these high-cost contracts involved percentage-based compensation, which AFP finds unethical. But it would also be nice to have some discussion of the role of telemarketing and the costs associated with it.

Those of us from the nonprofit world, especially those involved in fundraising, need to respond aggressively to articles like the CBC’s that paint an inaccurate and misleading picture of the fundraising environment.

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