The Role of Non-Profit Organizations in Addressing Social Challenges: Food for the Poor

Many non-profit organizations have appeared recently around the globe. It is justified by the importance and the variety of functions they perform in everyday life. Historically, the most common response to social ills like poverty, homelessness, and poor education has been to spend more money. When money is tight, concerned citizens ramp up their efforts for more fundraising, more requests for federal grants and government funding, and, ultimately, more investment in short-term solutions to solve long-term problems. But these traditional efforts rarely yield sustainable long-term results. To make progress, leaders needed a new approach. They needed an approach that integrated the best ideas of social programming with the expertise that the for-profit sector has acquired in achieving long-term outcomes (Rothschild 1). Non-profit organizations perfectly fit this role.

Non-profit organizations play the vital part in shaping modern civil society, developing the democratic values, and human rights protection. With time, their contribution to addressing both international and regional challenges becomes more and more noticeable, especially when referring to the issues related to the economic growth, social security of population and cultural cooperation. However, the impact of the non-profit organization on social and economic environment in every country is directly dependent on their collaboration with governmental and executive state bodies as well as with local authorities.

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Generally, the non-profit organization is known as the one whose activity is not aimed at receiving profit and whose members, respectively, may not share any profit. Some people prefer to call the non-profit sector the humanitarian sector. Others call it the social profit sector, the third sector, the independent sector, or a number of other things (Pallotta 13). Alike organizations include public, religious, charitable organizations, science, culture, education, health security or sport assisting funds and other different associations and unions. The non-profit institutions usually may do business within the limits required to fulfill their main functions.

Most non-commercial institutions are founded to solve the same problems the state and municipal authorities are dealing with every day. The scope of activities thereof covers the help to low-income population, upbringing and education of children, preserving and advancing culture, basic rights and freedoms protection and many other spheres which are not  able to operate only at purely commercial basis.

Activity of the majority of non-profit organizations is focused on addressing most vital issues within certain community or region. The existing of alike organization is primarily determined by the striving of the most active members of society to contribute to solving sharp problems through not only performing their direct duties laid down by the state, but also by doing something extra, exceeding the main responsibilities.

There is an opinion that non-profit organizations may even operate more efficiently in social and public domains than the state and the structures thereof. It may be explained by the fact that the non-profit organization is governed by the members only and solely according to the focal purpose of each organization. As a result, states often decide to delegate funds to independent non-commercial organization, of course, in return of strict and clear obligations the latter undertakes, rather than establish additional governmental bodies.

Common good organizations form one of the most important groups of non-profit organizations. They are also referred to as philanthropic organizations, and their main feature is that private resources of the members thereof are voluntarily distributed by their owners in order to help those in need, solve social problems and improve public life conditions.

The mission of the common good organizations consists in implementing general interests together with the ones of the organization members, in drawing the authorities, mass media and social attention to the issues and circumstances of public importance. Philanthropic organizations often become the feedback channel between population and the state, contribute to the transparency of power and to the breeding of the social responsibility spirit.

When choosing an organization to talk about, I found out that no so many charitable institutions are trusted. The money never gets to the people who need it. That’s the familiar refrain we hear whenever the subject of charity comes up in casual conversation. A Google search for “charities waste money” generates 3.6 million results – about twenty-five times more results than a search for the phrase, “charities use money wisely.” It hardly constitutes a scientific inquiry, but it probably means we can conclude that people who don’t trust charities outnumber people who do. Similarly, people’s comments in the blogs, articles, and forums picked up on a simple Internet search reveal a pervasive public distrust of how charities conduct their business (Pallotta 1). Therefore, I decide to pick up “Food for the Poor” – one of the largest charitable organizations in the United States, the organization operating for more than 30 years and having been rated the fifth-largest recipient of private support according to 2011 survey by Forbes of the 200 largest U.S. charities (Food for the Poor). This organization is different from other food and shelter providing organizations, first of all, by the scale of its’ activity, and, secondly due to its’ defined Christian-based ideology. This aspect is clearly visible from the mission statement of the organization, which says the goal of the institution is to connect the Christians in the developed countries with the Christians from the developing states in a way that assists both the materially poor and the poor in spirit (Food for the Poor). I share alike vision of aid as I believe everyone who is able to help should help those in need.

Food for the Poor was established in 1982 by Ferdinand G. Mahfood with the focus purpose to help the poorest population in the countries of Latin America and Caribbean. At its’ beginning, the founds mostly came from the members of various Christian communities. First members were actively engaged into the activity of the Organization both by donating money and by personally working with poor people. They were travelling to the Latin America and Caribbean countries to provide the most essential help and support to those who needed it. They campaigned for collecting more funds, and soon the Christian network of caring people enlarged. Currently, more than 300 people are permanently employed by the Organization rendering assistance to more than 17 countries. Since the inception in 1982,  the Organization has provided approximately $9 billion in aid and has built more than 77,417 housing units for the destitute (Food for the Poor).

According to the latest information on the website of the Organization, in 2011, Food for the Poor shipped 3,319 containers of aid and built 6,294 new housing units in the countries they serve. More than $19 million were spent on housing, medical, educational, sanitation and development projects (Food for the Poor).

The Organization hosted several Food for the Poor Special Events. These are regular activities organized in different sited over the country aimed at raising funds and deepening the social awareness on the issues that form the core activity of the Organization. They are not so frequent but the schedule is published on the website. For example, there only five alike events planned for 2013. They are all free for children but paid for adults. For instance, the last such event, which took place on 2 February 2013, raised enough money to build homes for 65 destitute families in Canaan Heights in May Pen, Jamaica. The beginning of works is scheduled for March (Food for the Poor).

Besides the activities focused on fundraising, the Organization encourages people to participate in its’ mission trips. As for today, more than 6000 volunteers have traveled to the states of Caribbean and Latin America. During such journeys, the volunteers have the opportunity to communicate with the local population, to help the mission by participating in hands-on activities – for example, painting houses, repairing schools, planting fruit trees, drilling water wells etc (Food for the Poor). These trips are to be paid by the volunteer, but the price is fair enough.

As for me, I would love to come in one of such journeys some day. I believe alike experience will change my outlook and my perception of the world. Of course, it is easier to give money, but I think that the real understanding of what the charity is may come only when becoming a part of mutual philanthropic efforts.

Unfortunately, not many people who want to donate for good purpose, trust charitable organizations. I understand their concerns. In my point of view the main reason for it is that the majority of alike organizations are not active enough in media. To make people trust, the organization should report regularly on its’ activity and inform though all means they can about their future planned events. It would also be nice to create the general database of most reputed charitable organization with different focus to suit personal commitments of various people. The more people know about the possibility to donate, the more people will be saved.

I believe non-profit institutions are very important for our nowadays society as they serves to achieve charitable and administrative aims, where the state has proved to be helpless. Non-profit organizations are established, as a rule, “from below” at the initiative of concerned people. An organization develops from a seed – a common concern, a critical issue, a central purpose, an individual’s passion. If this seed interests enough people, including potential contributors who share the passion, a group of some sort forms (Hummel 1). Such organizations mostly do not have strict hierarchy, they are independent, fluent and what is more important – they really long for helping people by solving certain issue. Throughout the country, non-profit organizations provide needed services to children, other young people, elder adults, the mentally and physically differently abled, and other socially or economically disadvantaged people. They promote arts. They advocate for the rights of people and focus attention on threats to the environment. They work and volunteer in support of many religious faiths and organizations (Hummel 1).

International experience provides numerous evidences of efficient cooperation between state and private philanthropic capital and proves of fruitful collaboration of state authorities and social good organizations aimed at social system improvement.

Today we see initiatives like the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which call for achieving a series of benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty by 2015. We see Share Our Strength, calling for the end of child hunger in five years; Bono’s ONE Campaign calling on us to save 4 million children’s lives within five years, and many other similar examples (Pallotta 9).

Besides international cooperation, we see many examples of personal non-profit activities. Fortunately, as the need for more effective social organizations has become urgent, innovation is proliferating among organizations that have a social purpose. Throughout the world, entrepreneurs with social agenda are experimenting with new business models, new ways to finance start-ups and growth, and new ways to combine the practices of business and charity. Social entrepreneurship has become a recognized global movement (Rothschild 5). This understanding of the vital role of non-commercial aid proves that alike initiatives are to exist.

Common good organization not only solve the problems the state and business do not have enough forces, they often become the leaders of social sphere through getting involved with the resources thereof into performing social policy and offering progressive means of addressing sharp public concerns.