I had an epiphany while listening to an interview with Scott Harris, founder of charity: water, about one of the common debates in the Muslim community:
Invest in structures or human resources?
Everyone is fighting over the same piece of the pie. There are only so many fundraising dollars. Financial commitments have been made to one thing and therefore other priorities must be postponed. Essentially – we’re in a bind and while we’d love to hire more people, we simply can’t.
So here’s the epiphany.
Charity: water is a reputable non-profit that provides clean water to people who don’t have access to it. Here’s the kicker. 100% of your contributions go directly into building the wells. One hundred percent. How is that possible?
Every charity has overhead of some sort. Salaries have to be paid. Web hosting has to be provided for. Someone has to pay for things like paper and print toner. How in the world are they able to guarantee that 100% of donations go strictly into the actual on the ground work?
They have private donors (angel investors) who have decided to cover all the overhead [see the details here]. This enables contributors like you and me to let 100% of our funds go directly into the cause we care about.
It is maddeningly simple.
How do we apply this to our communities?
Why not fundraise for both human resources and structures? Let the community dictate where the funds go. The board, after all, is a representative body of the community. They’ll tell you by way of their donations what they want the money spent on.
The biggest barrier to this is scarcity thinking. Or to put it another way, a severe and debilitating lack of tawakkul. People think there is a fixed amount of capital in the community and it must go to whatever a handful of people deem most important. This is the same thinking that causes people to fight when a new masjid opens up – “they’ll take our donors away!”
Instead of saying we can’t hire an assistant imam, or sisters coordinator, or youth director due to lack of funds – why not approach the community and say, we’d like to hire a sisters coordinator and this is the cost. If you want it, show us.
The biggest problem is we never give the community the chance to make that decision.