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Let's Make Some Money

In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning.

My dad once told me a story about a company that made a very charitable contribution. A minor league baseball team was having a night at the ballpark in which a portion of the ticket and concession sales would be given to a local charity. Wanting some sort of gimmick to pack the park, the team's staff began looking for something that would get people interested in coming to the game for a good cause. They thought of giving away a car, or having a silent auction, or inviting a popular celebrity. However, a local housing contractor decided to donate a new house for the team to raffle. The cost of the house, about $150,000 could have easily been donated by the construction company cutting a check to the charity. It would have been the largest donation the charity had ever received by far.

Tickets for the new house raffle cost $100, with all the money going towards the nonprofit. People could by as many tickets as they like. All in all, someone walked away with a new house, the park was packed, and over one million dollars was raised for the charity. My dad concluded the story with, "That's how you turn $150,000 into $1,000,000." Unbelievable.

The nonprofit world, I've seen, is just as competitive as the corporate world. People tightly hold onto their giving dollars, and when they give them, want to know that they're going to a good cause. Industry often has a budget for charitable giving, usually for tax and marketing reasons, and boards of directors and presidents must decide who receives these donations. Executive directors, development personnel, and professional fundraisers cheerlead and jump through hoops for these dollars, vying for the prize so that their outreach organization can help the most people in the best way.

I've always thought, that because of the corporate-like competition in the nonprofit world, there ought to be a corporate-like pursuit of excellence, customer service, and product delivery. Givers are neither ignorant nor naive, and will tightly keep their wallets closed until they feel comfortable and responsible enough to open them.

Those dedicated to seeing the genocide in Darfur end have caught on.

Don Cheadle, who has brought the cause to the forefront ever since starring in Hotel Rwanda, has teamed up with Timberland, to produce boots and shirts to raise awareness and stomp out genocide. People who like boots get a quality shoe; people who need to eat get some quality food. Get your boots here.

If more nonprofits gauged the needs not only of their clients, but of their donors, they could end up meeting and exceeding both.

“Let's Make Some Money”