This post looks at some of the major questions NGOs must ask themselves: When are we getting too far from our mission? Can you help work on changing attitudes and changing a whole system while also picking out individuals to support, or do the efforts negate each other? What amount of money is “too much” for each project and how to you measure “impact” when it comes to education and opportunities for individuals? Is the quantity of the impact more important, or the quality? When do you need to say no, even if the opportunity is a good one?
Daniela shares her thoughts below on the decision to offer students from Chanleas Dai Commune a chance to go to summer camp in the US. This was an opportunity brought to PEPY by the camp director, Jed, whom the PEPY staff knows very well and trusts. Should they have said “No, thank you”? Please share your thoughts after reading.
For those of you who have been following along closely with PEPY, you may have noticed what might seem like irrational decision making on our part given our current circumstances. What the close observer to our emails and team journal would see would be:
– A struggle to fully fund the construction of Chanleas Dai’s first primary school
– A large drop in tourism to Cambodia and to PEPY hence a large drop in donations (as tours generate the largest portion of our donations)
– A concurrent initiative to raise significant funding to send four students and two teachers to the US for camp
Here are some of the responses we have gotten from those of you who are following along:
“I wish you were here, I would like to have a conversation with you about the camping program. As a friend who believes you would want me to be “brutally” honest… I have so many questions about what the students’ program will be, what experience the camp has with foreign students, much less those from rural Cambodia. I was actually one of the directors of a short term program that brought inner city kids to use facilities of private camps once the season had ended. Those who donated their camps hardly knew what they were getting into and we were only dealing with American kids who were “different”!!!
Also, I wonder if this might be just too far off from your mission and maybe a case of wanting “everything” for your children. Please don’t be discouraged. It’s your idealism that must answer my cynicism.”
“Yikes, that’s a lot of money to go to camp!! I hope this question does not annoy you but aren’t you really trying to get the rest of the money for the school? It seems this amount of money could get you so much closer to that. You’re talking almost 16K. I understand that it’s an amazing opportunity for four kids but that school will help hundreds of kids? Just asking.”
THANK YOU for asking. There is nothing I appreciate more than someone challenging PEPY (and me!) to make each of us and our organization better. THANK YOU for asking those questions and putting this discussion out into the open. We are always open to the fact that sometimes, indeed, we might be making the wrong decision. We also know that sometimes the logic, debates, and thought process behind our decisions are not so clear if we are not taking the time to share those things.
As I wrote back to both friends above, here is/was the logic and thought process that went into deciding to accept the opportunity to send students to camp. This was far from a quick and easy decision (in fact it was something we debated and discussed for nearly two months) and one the community really wanted to accept (understandably), even though many of our team still did/do have concerns. Read up and let us know your thoughts: Is PEPY making a bad decision?
Before we decided to make the decision to try to raise funds to send four students and two teachers to camp in the USA this summer, we did these things:
That being said (and I do still think those people are out there), with the economy as such and with so many other programs and other NGOs short of funding, identifying those people has not panned out as we had thought. We do not want to use PEPY program funding to make these trips possible as our program funding should go to our core mission, though we had hoped to not have to turn down the opportunity for these kids by finding alternate funding streams.
Most likely this was/is the mistake that we made as, by taking this project on, perhaps it seems that PEPY is straying too far from its mission, is not recognizing the severity of the global economic situation, and is disjointed in its approach to fulfilling its mission. Instead, perhaps we should have had the camp or some other organization where child sponsorship was already a funding practice, take this project on directly themselves and we could promote it.
Either way, I would love to hear YOUR opinion. Can you work in changing attitudes (the main work of PEPY – changing attitudes towards education) while also supporting individuals? Does doing one negate the other? Is PEPY straying too far from its core mission? Should we have turned this offer down?
Please let us know your thoughts. We appreciate constructive criticism in our work which challenges us to improve. We also recognize that we have and do make mistakes and we need your help to keep us on track. Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.