Melissa Chadburn’s editorial surrounding the mission of nonprofits to provide aid instead of resources is a candid account of her experience working at a nonprofit from an autobiographical perspective. Chadburn grew up in the Los Angeles foster care system and faced adversity, poverty and other obstacles firsthand. The article appeared on Jezebel, a hard-hitting news and gossip site known for it’s disconcertingly frankness.
Resilience Is Futile: How Well-Meaning Nonprofits Perpetuate Poverty
By Melissa Chadburn | Jezebel | 7/14/15
One common tool to measure resilience is called the Children and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM-28). The CYRM-28 is a 28-item questionnaire that explores the individual, relational, communal, and cultural resources that may bolster the resilience of people aged nine to 23. The measure was designed as part of the International Resilience Project, based in Canada—a group on the forefront of resilience studies and partially funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Correctional Services.
Part of the programming offered by The Belong Campaign was a training for the parents in the community. The theme, of course, was resilience. It would be encouraged through discussions about challenges that life presents you and what possible resources you can use to respond to those challenges.
I felt this training endorsed a morally appealing self-castigation, and when I was hired, I did away with it. We’d built what I thought was a lonely hearts club; parents attended their “resilience meeting” casually, waiting for the day to unfold. They’d do this with or without us, without this hovering idea of what they lacked. Rather, I thought it would be best to go out in the community and assess who lived there, ask where the children were, what their barriers were.
So the promotoras and I knocked on the doors within the geographic target area. We surveyed the questions within CYRM 28. I added an additional question: “What was it that you want or need most in the community?” Most everyone responded with jobs and safer spaces. This seemed reasonable and not something that stemmed from a lack of resilience.
Fundraising for Resources To Empower Change
Resiliance is surviving in a repeated lifestyle cycle. It is just getting by. It is not thriving, growing or becoming something new and better. People in poverty know how to survive. Nonprofits working with minimal budgets know how to survive. What both lack is the accessibility to resources that will get them out of the perpetual cycle.
The author, Melissa Chadburn, claims that the story of lost resilience being restored is a common mission among nonprofits. Helping people/animals/groups/etc. to behaviorally find relief from their distress and dysfunction despite their situation. In reality, situation and environment are unlikely to change until the gaps and lack of resources change the individual first.
How do you find out what these gaps are? How can your organization start fundraising for resources that will empower change and do the most good? You ask the people in need.
Within your MobileCause account, you can use customizable mobile-friendly forms to create surveys that are capable of recording this type of valuable feedback.
Checkboxes and drop-down selections can be added to surveys, but the most valuable field on your survey may be the addition of an open-ended text box that invites people to candidly respond in their own words.
“What is it that you want or need the most in your community?”
Seems like a simple question, that you probably believe you already know the answer to, but why not be sure by going right to the source for information.
- Invite the people you help to participate in the survey by emailing or texting the link they can fill out privately and candidly.
- Arm your staff and volunteers with the link on their mobile devices at a community event.
- Promote a keyword word for the survey throughout the community you serve.
- Recruit volunteers and their smartphones to canvas the streets to encourage participation in the survey from individuals lacking technological accessibility.
Taking the Next Steps
Having definitive goals and action plans to address the issues that your forms reveal will allow your organization to focus fundraising on resources that empower your organization’s beneficiaries to help themselves change their own lives for good. By giving them the tools they need to help themselves, your organization will be able to scale its efforts and help even more people as the “graduates” become self-sufficient in their new lives.
Your fundraising efforts will reach more people because you won’t be exhausting money to temporarily put band aids on the same problems over and over. Your mission’s work will be energized with the growth–and “measurable data” in the form of success stories–that come from pinpointing the real needs identified through a simple survey.
Isn’t that the best ROI a nonprofit could hope for?