Donating and generosity are high virtues in Islam. Giving generously is highly praised in Islam. This we know and are reminded of in every…single….fundraiser.
We’ve all been to countless fundraisers, fundraising dinners, fundraising appeals, or gotten a barrage of fundraising emails asking us to donate to various causes and organizations. Some of them are extremely noble causes and other worthy of our donations,but others not as noble (or efficient) in their intentions.
In our community we have a dilemma of being resource rich, but economically poor. Many Muslim American non-profits misallocate donations (unknowingly or knowingly), budgets, and simply don’t know how to grow their organizations in a professional and sustained manner. This isn’t to point fingers and place blame—many non-profit leaders are not non-profit professionals or know the basic foundational knowledge needed to run a non-profit organization. Others have been in the field (and in leadership positions) for more than a decade if not more and have used the same stale fundraising methods when they first started their organizations.
For those interested in building financially sustainable non-profits, I highly recommend these books:
These old-school fundraising methods include fundraising dinners/banquets, iftaar dinners, email campaigns, and Ramadan fundraisers during taraweeh prayers. For donors getting inundated with hundreds of appeals for donations can be overwhelming. It’s with this in mind these questions will help you best make a well-informed and intelligent decision for your donation. As donors we should be asking tough questions to non-profits and ask for financial transparency from our non-profits. This in fact is a best practice that most successful non-profits actually implement. Financial transparency and the ability to show impact are two best practices that actually encourage donors to give more. When donors feel their money is making an impact and is being spent well they will donate more. Thus, the intent of this compilation of questions is not only to empower donors but to help non-profit organization leadership know what precisely it takes to win the trust and ultimately donations from donors.
We’ve all seen local and national organizations fundraise hundreds and thousands of dollars during this month. However, when it comes to donating it also is important as a donor to donate smartly. You want your dollar to have the most impact. There are hundreds and thousands of non-profits out there including your local mosque/masjid/Islamic center that’ll vie for your donation–who do you donate to? Where will my money make the most impact? These are all very good questions you should ask in addition to the following 22 questions.
Here are 21 questions you need to ask before giving a dime to any non-profit:
1) Why is the organization fundraising?
2) How frequently does the organization ask for funding or fundraise?
3) Does the organization have a long term financial sustainability plan?
4) Where are the funds going? How are they going to be used?
5) How often does the organization provide quarterly and annual reports to their community or donors or do they not provide any reports at all?
6) What is the operating budget of the organization?
7) How are the funds allocated by the organization?How much of the donations go towards overhead and the actual services/target demographic/audience?
8) What impact is the organization having on the issue(s) or demographic they are seeking to impact?
9) How does the organization measure success or impact of their programs and services? Do they have data or statistics to back up their impact or success?
10) How do their programs and services impact and benefit the local community you live in? How does the organization benefit your local community? How often does the organization serve the needs of your local community? What resources will the organization bring to your local community?
12) Is the organization’s mission and vision statement easy and clear to understand?
13) Is the organization fulfilling its mission and vision statement and how does it fulfill both its mission and vision?
14) What is the organization’s organizational structure? Is the staff competent in their roles? Do they have adequate requirements, education, skills and experience to fulfill their tasks?
15) Have there been any staff or board members been with the organization for over 20 years? If so why? Do they have a succession plan? What is their succession plan?
16) What efforts is the organization making to attract youth and young professionals to consider a career in their organization?
17) Has there been high turnover of staff or board members? If so why? Why isn’t the organization able to have a better retention rate?
18) How transparent is the organization in its financial budget, operations, and expenses?
19) What is the organization’s long-term financial sustainability plan?
20) What are the organization’s strategic goals in 5 years? 10 years?
22) Does the organization’s leadership seek new and innovative ways to improve their operations, fundraising methods, and delivery of services and programs?