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How can we connect our donors with our vision in a meaningful way? Every nonprofit leader I meet with wants more than just dollars from donors; they want a deeper connection. In a few cases it is possible to take the donors to see the projects and programs personally, but the costs of doing so (money, time, staff energy) are generally prohibitive for all but the largest donors. Today I saw something much simpler that I found inspiring. I ddon’t know much about Bulembu International (yet!) but I love this Letter to Donors in 2020. Read it, honour them for the idea, and then steal it for your organization. Or better yet, come up with your own creative way to connect with donors andd let others steal it from you.

One of the greatest challenges I see many organizations having is staying focussed on their core vision and competencies, particularly when the needs and opportunities are so diverse. This is amplified in organizations in which program staff work remotely and with great trust and independence from the main office. A recent conversation with Brady Wilson of Juice Inc. confirms this. Experienced with both corporate and nonprofit organizations, he commented on the need for the latter to identify and act on core, value-added activity. A lot of energy is squandered due to a diluted focus. I see this quite frequently and, for me, it raises concerns about the consistency and strength of the core leadership of the organization. Restoring focus is a demanding and unfailingly painful process. It requires the pruning of programs, efforts, and usually even staff and volunteers who are doing good work and are often respected and beloved. One organization with which I am familiar has taken on this challenge directly. A decade ago it had little common identity, functioning as a very loose and frequently combative assortment of independent entrepreneurial leaders who pursued their own sense of purpose with limited interest in accountability and cohesion. The result was an uneven movement with areas of great strength and achievement and others of confusion and conflict. The brand had no meaning apart from what was attributed to it at each grassroots location. It wasn’t disarray, but it was disorder. A new leader has taken on the task of reunifying the organization. To a great extent this has been successful. the “esprit de corps” is much improved, there is a growing recognition that the name and logo represent something similar in every region of the country, and new staff are comingg in without many of the old biasses and conflicts that were common in the past. There has been great cost however. Some outstanding and experienced leaders have left, some deeply hurt in the process. There seems to be less affection for the point leader than predecessors received. And some of the strongest grassroots efforts have undergone transitions that may feel like backward steps. It hasn’t been easy. Still, from my seat as an interested outsider I am both encouraged and excited about what is developing. Alignment has been costly, but it has created the potential for greater synergy and outcomes than could have been possible before. What is happening in your organization that is out of step with your core vision? When will you pay the price to fix it?

I really believe there are few things more beautiful in this world than adoption. The idea that someone would take in and include as family a child who is disadvantaged and has no claim on such treatment is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of what humanity can become. Today I read the following from one of my favourite bloggers, Al Hsu (If you see this Al, my intent to buy you dinner if I’m ever in your town stands):
The Lie We Love” by E. J. Graff, from Foreign Policy – a heartbreaking article about international adoption. Many adopted children are not orphans. Many have been kidnapped, stolen or purchased from their birth families. Some excerpts:
As international adoptions have flourished, so has evidence that babies in many countries are being systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away from their birth families. Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption over the past 15 years—places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, and Romania—have at least temporarily halted adoptions or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping. In reality, there are very few young, healthy orphans available for adoption around the world. Orphans are rarely healthy babies; healthy babies are rarely orphaned. “It’s not really true,” says Alexandra Yuster, a senior advisor on child protection with UNICEF, “that there are large numbers of infants with no homes who either will be in institutions or who need intercountry adoption.” So, where had some of these adopted babies come from? Consider the case of Ana Escobar, a young Guatemalan woman who in March 2007 reported to police that armed men had locked her in a closet in her family’s shoe store and stolen her infant. After a 14-month search, Escobar found her daughter in pre-adoption foster care, just weeks before the girl was to be adopted by a couple from Indiana. DNA testing showed the toddler to be Escobar’s child. In a similar case from 2006, Raquel Par, another Guatemalan woman, reported being drugged while waiting for a bus in Guatemala City, waking to find her year-old baby missing. Three months later, Par learned her daughter had been adopted by an American couple. One American who adopted a little girl from Cambodia in 2002 wept as she spoke at an adoption ethics conference in October 2007 about such a discovery. “I was told she was an orphan,” she said. “One year after she came home, and she could speak English well enough, she told me about her mommy and daddy and her brothers and her sisters.”
That there are people who would exploit something so beautiful is one of the surest examples I’ve found that humanity remains deeply corrupted and in desperate need of Jesus.