In difficult economic times, donations to charitable organisations usually dry up. This newspaper has reported on the various plights of Jamaican non-profit sector from time to time as their representatives scramble for funding. Their cry is almost universal: the need is increasing and donations are dwindling.
Individuals and corporations are constantly being tapped for donations to various projects in schools, churches, or among disaster-relief agencies and communities as they seek to advance the common good and rebuild shattered lives.
There are two reasons why we believe the focus should be turned on the non-profit/philanthropic community at this time. The first and most obvious is that this is the season of goodwill, and persons are more likely to look for opportunities to bring cheer into the lives of the most vulnerable.
The second has to do with the cash crunch being faced by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), as highlighted in Friday's edition. The general secretary of the YMCA, Sarah Newland-Martin, fears that she may have to return more than 100 youngsters to the streets if immediate help is not received.
She highlighted the problems of massive utility and other operational costs which are common to many non-profit organisations. But the alternative, of shuttering the institution, is the worst possible outcome. Mrs Newland-Martin puts it like this: "Jamaica would be in a serious problem."
These boys would most likely join the ranks of unskilled youth who now litter the urban landscape foraging for food. They have no work and are virtually unemployable. The reality is that these youngsters are ripe for recruitment into criminal gangs.
Both the YMCA and its female counterpart, the YWCA, provide an arena for wholesome recreational activities as well as a broad range of training and counselling programmes. Both have saved scores of young men and women from a life of crime and have steered them on a progressive path.
BUILD PUBLIC CONFIDENCE
But even though times are tough, philanthropy is not dead. However, some persons may have a less-than-positive feeling about charitable organisations because of their general lack of accountability.
Very few of these organisations file annual returns and most of their accounts are in shambles. This is no way to engender public confidence.
People want to trust non-profits and be convinced that they are using donations wisely and making ethical and honest decisions. So the first order of business for non-profits is to put their house in order by following good accounting practices and making regular reports to donors to let them know how their money was spent.
We believe with improvement in trustworthiness and accountability, non-profits will attract more donors, even in these challenging times.
Then there is the question of marketing. The non-profit sector needs to get creative and find new fund-raising techniques that will appeal to the public. Not everyone will have brilliant ideas like the Salvation Army's Christmas Kettle or the Girl Guides cookie drive. However, there are ways, particularly through social media, that the Y could appeal to affiliates locally and in the diaspora.
There are myriad ways in which non-profits can collaborate with like-minded bodies to pool resources and benefit from, say, sharing accounting and other financial services.
Another way that non-profits will attract donations is to tell their stories to as wide an audience as possible. People want to be inspired by the way others have overcome adversity and pain.
So even though the country is now in recession, the good work of these non-profits must be encouraged and supported through charitable giving.
The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.