It is all about the numbers... or is it?

      I was sitting in church a few weeks ago and Matt Chandler (Village church in Texas) was preaching about how we are not awesome.  And for whatever reason it was this moment of me realizing about how non – profits like to boast about how awesome they are by giving their numbers and recruit heavily on “how many” they are feeding, saving, curing, sponsoring etc.  Don’t get me wrong we do this too, to an extent.  If you made a donation to Arise Africa in 2014 you got our end of year letter giving you the year “2014 by the numbers” which has many of these stats.  But we don’t do it often and for whatever reason it has always rubbed me wrong with other organizations who talk “numbers” all the time. 

      I think it goes back to when I supported a non-profit and it was all about “how many” kids were being saved or run through their programs.  Although those numbers are awesome and staggering it made everyone strive for quantity over quality.  The end result was always the number.  How much could be raised?  How many kids could be reached?  How many Americans participated?

         What makes me so frustrated was that the quality of work gets diminished when this happens.  You are so focused on getting as many people as possible to “sign up” or “give” or kids to “save” that I wonder what the end result is. 

         The reality is that EVERY SINGLE number is a real child.   A kid with a heart and emotions and personality.  It is a human being that needs nurturing, love, constant care, and for us to constantly shepherd.  This child needs discipleship, and not a “one time saving.”   They need Jesus in their heart everyday, and that takes years and years of time and love to help them see that and grow it.  They need a parent because their’s are gone or don’t care or cannot provide.  Don’t get caught up in the numbers or whatever else, get caught up in the children themselves!  That is what you should see staggering, are the kids who’s stories are getting changed through the Lord.  The numbers can be deceiving. 

            We struggle with this in Zambia all the time.  The fact of the matter is there are so so many kids that need saving.   And the Arise Home could have more bunks in both the boys and girls room and places for those kids to live in.  We could physically go and save more kids tomorrow.  But our staff has always wanted to focus on the quality of the work we are doing and children we are raising.  I am not saying this is right or wrong, I lay in bed at night wondering if we should be saving as many as possible and not devoting as much time to each child.  But this is how we have chosen to operate, is quality over quantity.  One example of this is the low ratio of children to staff member in our child sponsorship program.  For every 30 children sponsored in our program we have 1 staff member assigned to them.  They are in charge of those 30 children ONLY.  Most programs run on much much larger child to staff member ratios, in the hundreds.  We did this for multiple reasons.  First, I wanted to be 100% sure we knew and could account for every single child in our program.  If we are telling you that you are really sponsoring that ONE child than we better know that kid and make sure they are in our program and showing up as school and eating on your dollar!  If you have been to Zambia and see where we work you would fully understand how easily it could be to lose track of a child and why we need a low ratio of adult to children.  Second, how do you disciple and shepherd and teach the word of God when you have more than 30 kids you are watching after?  It becomes more of a management program than an actual personal relationship with the child.   The most important thing is teaching these kids about Jesus and how much the Lord loves them! 

            So I ask you as the donor and supporter of Arise Africa or any other non-profit to remember this.  Even if a charity’s “numbers” aren’t as staggering as another, look deeper.  Because they could be making more of an impact than the “big number” groups.  Ask yourself what is most important to you too.  Ask any charity you invest in the hard questions.  Do they seem so polished and slick that it is too good to be true?  Because it probably is!  Third world development and working to eliminate poverty is complex and messy.  That’s why it hasn’t been fixed in thousands of years.  Try to investigate the quality of programs they are running and how they are doing it.  If you sponsor a child how often do you get updates?  If it is only every 6 months or even more, I would wonder how much that child you sponsor actually gets attention and is being cared for.  Make sure to know what that overall goal is of the charity and “feel them out.”   You can get a sense of a charity’s “M.O.” (mode of operation) real quick. 

Don’t get caught up in the numbers.  Gat caught up in investing in a child’s heart. 

- Alissa