Recently on our Twitter feed, we encouraged our followers to measure what matters. We started with these two posts:
It is really easy in charity work to measure inputs and outputs, activities and volume. What would it mean, though, if we measured our efforts by how they actually change the economic well-being of a neighbor/neighborhood? That would mean taking an honest look at our outputs, whether they are the ones we intend or not.
For example, it is one thing to celebrate the number of meals distributed, the number of volunteers involved, the number of homeless individuals served, etc.. It is another this to ask, "Why are the same people returning week after week after week?," or "What can we do alongside our homeless neighbors to ensure that they are able to provide food and shelter for themselves so that they no longer need this?"
These are the foundational concerns and questions of the Charity Detox community.
One of our Twitter followers asked for examples of things to measure that matter. Here are 3 things to serve as a primer for that conversation with your ministry partners.
1. Involvement. Are those being "served" involved in the leadership, organization, distribution, planning, etc. of the ministry? If it is the materially wealthy making all the decisions and doing all the work and the materially poor simply living at the receiving end, toxicity will always persist. Begin to measure progress toward equal involvement AT ALL LEVELS of the organization.
2. Capacity. If those being "served" remain in a perpetual need for the service you provided, your measurements have to shift. Is the poverty needle moving? Is the capacity of the neighbors who seek assistance being leveraged so that they are able to provide for themselves and their families. We have to think beyond the immediate presenting need to the underlying causes and the long-term health of our neighbors.
3. Application. What keeps charity toxic is the misapplication of responses. When a crisis hits, emergency relief is the appropriate strategy to apply. A tornado wipes out a town. Donations of food, clothing, shelter, etc. make sense. When a problem is chronic, however, applying emergency relief only perpetuates (or worsens) the problem. If an organization works on measuring the appropriate application of responses, they may begin celebrating that they are giving less and less volume of stuff away and pointing more and more people to processes that lead to their personal growth and health.