The thing about NGOs, for the most part, is that people have learnt not to trust them.
Or maybe it’s just the dishonesty in a lot of us. We cheat people day in day out, so we expect to be cheated.
But then again, if you consider statistics, you’ll see maybe there’s some truth – or maybe people have come to see they have a reason to not trust NGOs. Consider the Wyclef – Haitian earthquake relief fund scandal in which his charity, Yele,was indicted for fraud allegations and debt after mishandling funds amounting to $16 million. Also, in the US alone, several cancer charities have been dissolved following the same reasons – misappropriating funds.
That’s probably the biggest reason people have for their reluctance in giving to these organisations. More often than not, I ignore someone who claims to be raising money for some deaf and dumb organisation – not because I don’t want to give, but because I have learned not to trust too many of these people. A number of them are in it for their own interests, to enrich themselves. For instance, consider a fit, well-built man in his early thirties who would rather go around begging and pretending to be deaf and dumb rather than finding some meaningful work and earning money? Why would I – why should anyone – give anything to that person?
But then that kind of mentality – my kind of thinking – puts well-meaning charities and NGOs in a quandary. How are they supposed to raise money, without which they cannot do anything? How do they take care of their expenses, the daily running of the organisation? How do they offer support and help to those they are supposed to be helping?
Almost all of them depend on the kindness of strangers – people who just give for whatever reason. Some of them solicit funds through celebrities, social media and by creating some awareness for their organisation and their significance. In the US, for example, charities, for the most part, raise funds through grant applications and fundraisers.
I do wish the government would pay a bit more attention to these humane service providers. It’s a very depressing thing to realise that in a state the size of Lagos, the only functioning abuse and trauma recovery centre is just one – The Mirabel Centre.
And who cares how they stay in business?
So what is an NGO – especially one that means well – to do?
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for NGOs to organise fundraisers. It could be a celebrity match or auction of artworks created by kids. There could be essay competitions for the children/victims with prizes provided by the general public. The Mirabel Centre could have a celebrity debate between some of their ambassadors (Bimbo Akintola is one) or even between their ambassadors and students of a school, and people buy tickets to watch. High profile chess or scrabble competitions can also be organised such the public is informed about it and can support whatever way they can.
More awareness will go a very long way in helping the purpose of a lot of these organisations. For the most part, people don’t even have any idea they exist or what they do. How then would you support something you do not know about?
Some of them don’t even have a social media presence. This prompts the question: How do I support something I don’t even know exists? If you checked through online directories for ‘Nigerian NGOs’, you would find an impressive list. Yet if you dialed the numbers attached to them you either get a busy tone or ‘the number you’re calling is not available’.
How, then, do they do business?
Maybe the first port of call would be for these organisations to clean up their acts. Put a proper structure in place, accountability, contacts and so on. Be a professional organisation – never mind if you are an NGO or not. Maybe people will start to take you seriously – as seriously as you take yourself.