Living the Little Dream[36] – Charity Sustainability

“Charity should be self-sustainable. That is, it should create more wealth rather than perpetuating the cycle of poverty and dependence.” – Ravi Shankar. The long-term sustainability of charities are often a topic of high priority and interest. More and more charities are discovering the only way to survive is to move toward a method of funding that is efficient, reliable and above all sustainable.

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Our visit to Watoto Village with the opportunity to witness the high-quality level of care for orphans got me interested in understanding more of the finances of this charity. In the most recent financial report published, Watoto Village earned an income of $13 million (USD) during the year, for which their expense was $10.5 million (USD). As an average figure, each child or woman in the village is receiving more than $3,500 USD of funding per person during the year. To further understand what this amount of funding means in Uganda, the GDP per capita for this country is $676 USD. That is, each supported child or woman in the village is on average receiving more than 5 folds of typical financial output per person in the country. Relatively speaking, Watoto appears to be a ministry who is highly successful in raising funding. The ministry also values sustainability, whereby they manage goat, poultry and agriculture farms in order to produce their own sources of food and drinks for the village. However, we were told during our village tour that such operations is yet to be generating profits for the organisation.

It is obviously impossible to generalise individual charities and their operations into one theory. However, the strength of charities and not-for-profit organisations are often thought to be in advocacy and are highly effective in demonstrating poverty. No doubt, charities understands well the audience they serve and are able to encourage high level of people participation in their activities. Furthermore, they often exist to address issues which local governments are unable or unwilling to tackle.

On the other hand, charities do have their shortcomings. Many are fragile and tend to depend heavily on external financing, making them at times unsustainable or liable to manipulation.Whilst charities can rely on short-term donation funding, can many of them build up their own profit generating mechanism to gain greater control of their finances? Some also argue that if charities control too much of donor money, they may “crowd out” governments by taking human capacity away through better salaries. The average salary of a NGO worker in Africa is usually 5 folds of a typical civil servant. Moreover, the accountability perspective of charities is often a debated topic. As such, organisations such as GiveWell came to existence in order to access the most effective charities for individual donors.

Our visit to Watoto Village gave me further insights in both the benefits and shortcomings of a charitable organisation. Whilst sustainability remains a topic of heated debate for charities, it should be agreed that the purpose of such organisation exists to provide an opportunity for people to help themselves.

**Founded more than 30 years ago by a Canadian missionary couple, Watoto is a holistic care programme that was initiated to look after the overwhelming number of orphaned children and vulnerable women in Uganda. For many in the developed world, Watoto Children’s Choir and their lively singing is likely ring a bell. Since 1994, the Children’s Choir have travelled all around the world as advocates for the child of Africa spreading the hope and joy they have found through Jesus Christ.