In the last post, Sara Hall laid out a critique of FORGE’s fundraising strategy. Sara first reached out to me confidentially, but quickly was willing to go public (and Kjerstin was quick, as always, to give her support to the critique being published).
Sara made three core points 1) Transparency should not be a higher objective than the quality of a nonprofit’s operations 2) FORGE’s board has failed to support the social media fundraising strategy though their own donations and 3) The online community owes it to FORGE to evaluate the social media fundraising site and either make a donation or give FORGE feedback as to why they are not donating.
Point one I agree with and addressed in a prior post. Short summary: I think transparency SHOULD be celebrated for its own merits becasue it is so rare, but it is only a precondition for donors to effectively evaluate nonprofits, not a sufficient condition to engage their support.
Regarding point two, it blows me away when nonprofits do not have 100% of their board financially supporting them. In a world with limited transparency, it must be assumed that the board has the best view of what is going on within a nonprofit. If they are not providing financial support, as a donor I am uninterested in providing my financial support. It may be that FORGE’s board all made direct gifts instead of supporting projects (It appears from FORGE’s website that the project budgets do not include FORGE’s operational costs, so somebody needs to fund FORGE’s costs and the board would be a natural supporter of these costs). However, at least from a public perception standpoint, I agree that board members should have funded the projects to some degree.
Sara’s third point brings up the question of donating to FORGE. Should the Tactical Philanthropy Community be financial supporting FORGE now? That’s a decision for each person to make, but I will say that I have not yet personally made a gift to FORGE. Remember, FORGE is telling us that they are in trouble. Supporting FORGE if they are eventually unsuccessful in closing their budget or raising the funds needed to retrofit their fundraising strategy would seem to be a waste. However, the Tactical Philanthropy Community has mobilize a number of resources for FORGE’s benefit. Personally, I’d like to see Curtis’s report to FORGE before making a final decision to support the organization financially. In addition, assuming that a viable strategy is identified, I think that the most useful way to support FORGE will likely be to participate in some sort of organized fundraising campaign in which the support of the online community can mobilize additional resources and hopefully trigger support from institutional foundations.
So I’d like to tie together Sara’s first and third point. Transparency IS something that should be celebrated for its own merits. But it is NOT enough to merit financial support of an organization. However, transparency can generate conviction from donors that an organization has a viable strategy for success and this merits donations. Therefore I do not see any disconnect between the online community celebrating FORGE’s transparency, but (for the time being) watching the “reality TV” unfold from the sidelines. However, if at the end of this saga, FORGE proves themselves worthy of our financial support I hope and expect that the online community will put their cash to work.