If your NPO does work overseas, might be worth pondering the risks again

December 1, 2015, 8:50 am
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

If your ministry recruits staff and sends them overseas to carry out your programs, you might want to spend a bit more time thinking about the risks your staff face.

A court ruling in Norway found a charity liable for the physical injuries, psychological harm, and aftercare of a staffer who was kidnapped in Kenya and held four days before being rescued. The staffer was shot in the leg. The incident understandably left this staffer with post-traumatic stress disorder. Another staffer was killed.

The court noted the organization treated this and other staff persons as troublemakers because they complained internally about the lack of aftercare.

The court found the Norwegian Refugee Counsel guilty of gross negligence and liable for damages equal to US$500,000. The court also criticized the follow-on security investigation and found that NRC improperly accessed the risks that staff faced. The court noted other staff persons were upset with their aftercare.

Read the rest of this entry »

Arguments in favor of harmful aid

September 3, 2014, 12:26 pm

Blogger “J” writing at AidSpeak recently experienced another round of lousy arguments in favor of harmful aid. He developed an inventory of the bad arguments in play.

I’ve mentioned “J” a number of times on my blog. He has helped me stretch my understanding in general and especially on the difference between doing aid well and causing harm & hurt by doing aid poorly. We rarely consider the risk of unintended consequences when helping others. Check out some of my articles:

His detailed explanation of great reasons to do aid that hurts is A Taxonomy of Arguments in Favor of Bad Aid.

What does he include in the population of harmful aid?

Read the rest of this entry »

Before you get too far in planning that short term mission trip….

July 28, 2014, 8:19 am

….read Once more, from the top at AidSpeak. The author, “J”, wrote the article It’s a Crappy World, that I mentioned here.

The article discusses, then demolishes, a number of the arguments for volunteers going overseas to help.

Here’s just a few thoughts for your consideration:

Aid and development are professions, not hobbies. It takes specific knowledge, skill and experience to get this right.

Read the rest of this entry »

Trying to make the world less miserable is complicated and messy

June 20, 2014, 6:55 am

One of the big reasons I blog is to help me sort out this big, complicated, messy world.

“J”, an anonymous blogger and novelist at AidSpeak, helps in general and especially with his recent post It’s a Crappy World.

He points out 5 of the tensions and paradoxes of the aid and development world. Lots to ponder.

Read the rest of this entry »

The world is complicated – the ‘you-can’t-even-just-hand-out-a-wad-of-cash’ chapter

September 4, 2013, 8:20 am

I don’t understand why, but there has been a lot of tweeting in the twitter world about the wonders of addressing poverty by just giving everyone a handful of cash. That would make a number of aid issues a lot easier to deal with.


The world is complicated. Everything has unexpected side issues.

An experienced worker in the aid field who maintain anonymity by self-identifying as “J” writes at AidSpeak.

He explains why even giving cash away is difficult in his post, Cash.

Read the rest of this entry »

Another unsettling thing I’ve learned while blogging – the definition of poverty p0rn

May 24, 2013, 7:37 am

If you want to stretch your brain farther than you thought possible, start blogging.

You can stop laughing now. As a cautious, restrained, introverted CPA, it is usually a half-inch journey to travel the entire distance of my comfort zone.

Starting my own business stretched that zone. Blogging shredded it.

One of the opened frontiers for me was looking at fundraising and international aid in a completely new way. A while back I saw some materials from one of the international aid NGOs. With my new vision I could see the manipulative story and oddities in the video. Evoking pity was the goal throughout.

Having already been stretched, I was able to see things differently. Like noticing every helping face in a brochure was white. Like realizing every needy face was brown or black. Further reflection revealed the only happy black face was next to a newly painted hut (which was probably provided by an aid organization and the cause of the smile).

I now know the name for that:

Read the rest of this entry »

Time to un-mis-educate donors about what efficiency looks like

October 23, 2012, 6:45 am

The phrase un-mis-educate is coined by “J” in a post, Rethinking Efficiency, at AidSpeak.

J suggests one of the reasons NPOs (NGOs for my international readers) are under so much pressure on overhead ratios is that NPOs have spent a generation mis-educating donors that organization X is better than Y because 90% or 98% of donations to X go to program services.

I agree.

J says that NPOs need to undo the mis-education, thus the need to un-mis-educate donors.  I think that is a great turn of phrase.

Read the rest of this entry »

Two more cautions on how to interpret overhead ratios

May 30, 2012, 8:35 am

Came across two more articles reminding us to be careful in how we use overhead ratios to assess nonprofits. The functional allocation is a useful tool but needs to used and interpreted carefully.

Meaningless Fractions is a guest post at AidSpeak from Fredrick.

His concern is that the way overhead ratios are emphasized creates confusion between inputs and outputs. Overhead is one of many inputs. Delivering aid requires a wide range of inputs. In addition to infrastructure, an organization needs skilled people in the right locations at the right time, corporate knowledge of how to deliver effective aid, and dozens of other inputs.

Read the rest of this entry »