Are we meeting our communities needs?

The charity sector is one of the fastest growing sectors. Should we be asking “Why are the community needs growing or are we busy with good intentions but not meeting the needs?"

Sunday 18th September 2016

Do we know what our communities needs are?

There are many, many needs in all of our communities, and it can be tempting to decide which ones you think are the most important and focus on those. But the needs you see may not be the biggest or most practical ones that need to be met.

During our time working with an NGO in West Africa we heard of a time when the UN handed out beans to feed the starving people. They were easy to transport, plentiful and a good source of nutrition. When they went back weeks later the people where in a worse state, so they asked “What happened to the beans we gave you?” “Oh we still have them.” came the reply “We don't know what to do with them.” Sometimes good intentions do not meet the needs. In this case the local people had not been consulted nor shown how to cook the beans.

Is it a program or something you really care passionately about? Many great charities and foundations are born out of individuals desire for change in a certain area. It may be that you have a strong desire to help a particular sector that is not being met; Get other like minded people together and talk about it, do lots of planning, do your research well. Make sure what you want to do is also perceived as a need by the people who you are wanting to help. Make sure it is not a situation like the beans in West Africa!

Charities, churches and community groups that want to meet these practical needs in the best way spend time studying and getting to know their communities. You can’t guess or do what you want. You will need to take time and talk to people in the community, town or city. You will need to talk to other charities, social workers, government agencies, law enforcement, shelters or food banks, churches etc. If your community consists of mostly retired and the elderly, a support to pregnant teenage girls may be better set up in a different area. Sometimes it may be better to get alongside other organisations that are already doing good work, help them, support them, build ongoing relationships instead of jumping around and setting up a new organisation.

Its also important to evaluate the gifts and passions of the people in your organisation since they will be the ones actually out there on the front line. For example if you are a church that has a high percentage of accountants or lawyers, you might consider a free debt counselling and legal advice service. But you may also need to have the clinic outside of your area where the people who need the help are. You may need to consider your motives in setting up a program, those who really care passionately about the work are bound to be more successful then those that have mixed motives.

Today there are more and more regulations being put upon charities, we need to be transparent, we need to have tangible evidence that we do what we say we are doing. We need to have tangible outcomes. People also want to give their donations wisely and choose those they know are meeting a need, actually doing good work.

The key is to have programs that really meet peoples real needs and help people to have a better quality of life, to enjoy life despite their circumstances or to alleviate pain and suffering. We need to really care, have a heart of compassion. As the bible tells us we should take care of the poor and needy, the widows and the orphans. And we need to be open and transparent in all we do, openly carry out or mission and calling.