Eugene Cho

wisely fighting poverty

It’s so easy to fall in love with the vision of something than to do the hard work to move towards bringing life and fruition to that vision. This has been the case for Minhee and I with the humanitarian organization for several years. While we know we’ll face some scrutiny, questions, and criticism, we are ready to move forward – even if we know we’ll make some mistakes along the way.

However, I’d love [and need] to hear some feedback from you about some elements that we hope will shape the humanitarian organization.  If you’re new to the blog, you may want to read Loudly Fighting Poverty and A Vision of Compassion & Redistribution.

OVERVIEW:  Our vision is to start a global organization to fight global poverty and are planning to launch the beta website in the coming months.  We hope to do three main things:  1] raise awareness of human suffering and global poverty; 2] invite people to donate and create a global community via the website, and 3] redistribute those funds.  As I’ve shared before, our goal is to raise $2 million by 2010, $10 million within 5 years, and $50 million over the next 20+ years.  We’ll share in eventual weeks how we hope to raise those funds by [attempting] creating a grassroots viral movement.

But for now, give me some feedback on these random thoughts/ideas:

1. This organization is a non-profit and non-religious organization. Couple pastors I’ve spoken to have pushed back and shared honestly [which I appreciate] that they couldn’t support our endeavor because it is not a Christian organization. Minhee and I love Christ. I am a pastor. But this will not be a Christian organization. While we know we’ll partner and support many Christian organizations, the fight against global poverty is not just a Christian issue – it is a humanity issue. We care about preaching the gospel but we care equally if not more about demonstrating the gospel.  We don’t care who you are. If you care about human suffering and are involved in the fight against global poverty, we want to collaborate with you.

2. There is nothing new with our organization.  We don’t want to be righteous.  We are newbies and need to learn.  We are neophytes but our hearts ache for what we know is taking place in our world.  We want and need to do something and want to invite and inspire others.  We can’t afford to do nothing.  And we know that we are simply joining what is already going on around the world.  When people ask, “Why do you need to start another organization?”, our response is:

There needs to be thousands more…because the problem of global poverty is so dramatic and vast.

As we raise funds, we will distribute [via an application/discernment process] to groups and organizations around the world. While there will always be a need for more people and organizations to be engaged in fighting poverty, there are amazing people and groups that are already doing great and substantive work – but no one knows about them.  It is inspiring. 

Our hope and conviction is to focus mainly [not exclusively] on organizations with budgets under $100,000 with the reality that many will have budgets far lower.  Why?  They are small.  They are survivors.  They are underdogs. Not many people know about them.  They know how to stretch $1.00 to $1.75 because they have had to learn to be resourceful.  Amongst several things, we hope to partner with orgs that are raising up and empowering indigenous leaders who better understand the context of their culture to foster change.  In addition we hope to use some of our funds to collaborate with others to engage in larger scale microloans seeking to impact larger groups.

3. While huge organizations such as World Vision, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Services and others are doing wonderful work, our hope is to create a different model – not necessarily a better model. We will establish two funds in our organization. The MAIN fund will give away 100% of every donation to the cause of fighting global poverty. We will give our year’s salary [$66k] to this fund to help jumpstart the collaboration. We are scouting and reviewing organizations to support – right now. It is through this Fund that we hope to eventually raise $50 million dollars [while simultaneously giving it away] to fight global poverty. 

The second FUND is called the OPERATION Fund. We will raise funds separately via fundraisers and donations so that we have modest funds to cover our operations to run the organization. While numerous have already offered to volunteer their time, we hope to hire two employees in the next several months to assume certain vital roles to carry out our implementation plan. Minhee and I will volunteer our time as members of the Advisory Board/Board of Directors and I will lead the organization as the Exec. Director. We will give an additional $34K to help jumpstart this Fund and will be sending out letters in the coming weeks in hopes of raising an additional [minimum] $66K and totaling at least $100K – which we believe will sustain us for at least 1.5-2 years to build the this movement. Our goal is to create this organization with minimal expenses from the OPERATION Fund. Most major organizations are fortunate to give away 60 cents/dollar after covering overhead costs.  In fact, I’d be shocked if these organizations are able to give that much away.

4. There are numerous ways to fight global poverty.  One thing is clear: there are no easy solutions. However, most will agree that it is, nevertheless, within our human capacity to eradicate extreme poverty if governments, leaders, non-government organizations, religious organizations, and individuals worked together on the major issues that impact global poverty: food and nutrition, water, diseases & medicine, maternal and child health, housing, education, slavery and orphans, and education.

Governments must do their part in four major areas: debt cancellation, fair trade, decrease corruption, and increase aid to respective countries and regions around the world. Equally as important in my opinion, is the role of the individual. You and I should not be given a free pass.

5.  We hope to create an Advisory Board [larger group] comprised of people with layers of expertise relevant to our organization that can assist us in our Implementation Plan and a Board of Directors to help shape vision,  infrastructure, and accountability.  The BOD [smaller group] are people that care passionately about justice, compassion, and global poverty.

There’s more I can share but for now, I’ll stop because it’s late.  What do you think?  Give me your thoughts, questions, and additional ideas.  Next week, I will share how people can help and pray in these early stages.

Relevant Links: Fighting Poverty Series | Part 1 | Part 2| Part 3

Filed under: health, religion

23 Responses

  1. Eric says:

    I like the idea of communicating that 100% of all donations go to fight poverty. I think we can more effective by streamlining our giving and cutting out the “middle person.” There are so many orgs that are out there and most, if I can be honest, do a lousy job communicating their cause. So, be very clear about who, what, where, and why.

    Very inspiring.

  2. Randall says:

    My thoughts, point by point (at 6:40am so please forgive typos and unclarity)

    1. I think an organization run by Christians with Christian principles behind it IS a Christian organization even if it supports non-Christian non-profits. Frankly, it pisses me off that PASTORS wouldn’t support you in this cause just because it’s a non-religious non-profit. If it were an anti-religious organization I could understand their reservations but to not support a cause just because it doesn’t sport a little Jesus fish on the bumper is…what’s a polite way to put it…it’s missing the point entirely.

    2. Your idea to distribute funds to smaller organizations is genius! As you said, these organizations know how to stretch every penny and they’re grass-roots, on the ground, and in close contact with those they’re trying to help. And they have less bureaucracy weighing them down so they’re more agile and able to deploy help where most needed.

    There’s a place for large organizations but too often, they get the bulk of the aid money leaving the smaller players to fend for themselves. I love that you’re sticking up for the little guy.

    3. …hey, I have an idea for a fundraiser you could try…

  3. Danny says:

    The problem, Eugene, is that no one really cares. No one cares about global poverty and frankly, I think your project is doomed for failure because you are fighting not against poverty but against human apathy.

  4. Kacie says:

    Well, I disagree with Danny, above. I think that when the Holy Spirit moves in hearts, people DO care. Christians and non.

    Point by point…
    1. I agree with what you say here. Why put up walls when they aren’t needed? Why divide between what WE are doing and what THEY are doing?

    2. You say you aren’t doing anything new, but you seem to distinguish that you’re different because you want to support small and unrecognized organizations. I think it’s important to communicate how your vision is unique, because if it isn’t unique, then why not contribute your time and energy to a foundation that is doing something similar? I have been working in charitable philanthropy for a few months now (at the lowest level :)) and there are many foundations with great visions. There’s something to be said to partnering in order to get a greater amount done. If this is what is unique about your tactics – supporting small organizations – then recognize that.

    all the rest… great stuff. :)

  5. Su says:

    PE: I am so inspired/encouraged/blessed by you and Minhee’s vision/mission/compassion. You are so right that the fight against global poverty is not just a Christian issue – it is a humanity issue’. I thank God that I go to Quest and that leadership thinks outside the christian box!

    I also love the fact that you want to demonstrate the gospel thru this organization. Reminds me a quote from St. Francis Assisi – ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.’

    You, your family, the organization are in my prayers. Let me know how I can help.

  6. chad says:

    PE: this is awesome. simply awesome.
    if i can throw my own 2 cents out there (point by point);

    1) I’m with Randall on this – God doesn’t care what the “official religious position” of your organization is; if you do the work of God, then you belong to Him (and I may have the cause and effect order on that point a little backwards). And, in our world, a non-religious organization can sometimes go places that religious organizations can’t, that might turn out to be a blessing even if you do have to sacrifice some potential supporters (who might come around in the end anyway)

    2) seems wise and right – no one organization can possible hope to fight such an enormous problem and so many organizations will be necessary (if only just to bring awareness of the vastness and complexity of the problem and the options available – but hopefully all the players can do so much more than raise awareness). also, i like the small loan focus, very wise

    3) this model seems like a good idea from the perspective of a potential contributor, when i give money i will know which fund it is going to (i assume) and be certain that my donation is going to help the cause i care about (be it supporting the organization itself or fighting poverty). plus it should help with budgeting internally – no temptation to just borrow a few bucks that have simply been earmarked for something else

    4) sounds good & 5) the more people involved in decision making, the more i fear things will get bogged down (not that a certain amount of thought and waiting isn’t necessary in decision making), but i just wanted to make that observation

    & @ Danny’s point about apathy: (and this is just the way i see it) it isn’t your job to fight apathy, that is the job of the Holy Spirit… so, don’t worry about that.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Eugene,
    I love the ideas. I think the hardest thing is showing good transparency and accountability. There are so many “things” asking for attention and financial support that it really needs to stick out in my opinion.

  8. Leah says:

    I especially like that you are hoping to emphasize working with smaller, more unique groups. I agree that the large organizations are indispensable, and I also agree that much exciting work is going on in smaller groups and in non-traditional ways. I think encouraging that kind of work will also help with apathy – perhaps some people are turned off because they only see the big-org model – maybe encouraging smaller, unique groups will inspire others to get involved in a way that is unique to them.

    I struggle with this myself – I have a passion for the poor of the world (including locally), but do little about it except donate money to organizations and help with occasional organized things, and try to do a bit in politics to lobby for the causes I think will be most helpful for the poor. I have a chronic pain and fatigue, which keeps me from volunteering for a mission trip, or even from volunteering a lot, etc. So this is part of why I am so interested in your mission (and Quest) – I want to find ways to respond to God’s call and the big-org/mission trip model doesn’t work in my life. I am enjoying this conversation and hope to learn a lot in the process.

    I’ve also been reinvigorated by the importance of prayer. I used to think about the “little old ladies” who would faithfully pray for us and I appreciated it so much, but didn’t see it as something I could do. Even though I’m young-ish (okay, mid-30s), prayer is still so important. AND with my physical limitiations, I can STILL PRAY.

    I’m still working lots of things out, but I appreciate the dialogue you have going on here. I look forward to following the process and learning along the way.

  9. aaron says:

    I have mixed feelings about it being a “non-religous organization”… I definitely see a few upsides to labeling it that (i.e. inclusion of non-christians, emphasis on provision, not conversion, etc.) … At the same time, I think you should define where religion fits in (because it IS a factor). When it comes to grey areas and ambiguities how will you deal with that? (Potential areas are unlimited… but just to think of a few: would you give literature of other faiths to local schools for students to learn from? areas of contraception v. abstinence/monogamy? issues of governments and bribery? cultural issues?) I am sure there are numerous issues… none of which are black and white…. I dont think you have to call it “Christian” or “religious”… I would worry that once you have a board or oversight comittee that not only is there a similar mission/vision, but also similar ethical standards to operate by… (an interesting report: http://www.soxfirst.com/50226711/ERC's%20National%20Nonprofit%20Ethics%20Survey.pdf)

    Secondly, as far as giving to smaller organizations I think this is absolutely great! I definitely see the benefit here… smaller groups find needs and have passion… At the same time, I see obstacles in areas of accountability (organizationally, financially, etc) and objectively monitoring performance (i.e. effectiveness, resourcefulness, appropriate performance measures)…. I guess when you say smaller organizations can stretch their dollars, I think sometimes they can but sometimes they can not… larger organizations have people in place and supply chains set up… smaller organizations might have more logistical issues… I just wonder how they will be held accountable and how effectively they really can be monitored and evaluated to see if your organization is putting its resources in the best possible places.

    It is great seeing this plan develop…. I am encouraged!

  10. aaron says:

    I have to add one more thing…. it goes back a little to what Leah said… I think it is critically important for you to find a way to make sure your donors are included and active in the organization… I am not sure what this will look like… but you need to build loyalty and relationships with donors who are active…. who are really a part of something (not just writing a check) Unfortunately, a lot of organizations resources are often spent competing for donor dollars. Again, not sure how this would work exactly, but to really encourage people to change their spending/lifestyle/priorities to be a part of something bigger would be an amazing feat.

  11. BEW says:

    Maybe the Gates Foundation would be able to chip in a few bucks to get things going?

  12. chris says:

    hey. first time commenter. i’d like to give u some feedback.

    maybe you should think about focusing your funds towards local (or indigenous, as you say) NGOs or entrepreneurs straight up, instead of giving money to organizations who purportedly will do some good here or there. one problem with NGOs in general, a problem that makes me cringe when you say we need thousands more, is that despite their best intentions, they aren’t really helping. take micro finance institutions for instance – it doesn’t work everywhere, but people jump on this model and try to implement it in places where it wasn’t intended. it worked in bangladesh because it was created there by a bengladesh economist who cared about his people. but in places like ghana, give a microloan to a guy and he’ll all of a sudden be faced with 10 life-saving decisions – my neighbor’s mother is sick, should i give her the money? my cousin is in trouble, should i give him the money? microfinance just doesn’t work everywhere, yet it, like NGOs in general, are perceived to always be part of the solution to global poverty.

    for you to give others’ money to organizations that may end up being ineffective would be really sad. intelligent, educated and motivated people are ready and willing to put their time and effort into helping their countries, but for some reason they get overlooked when they ask donors for help. so i think it’d be a good idea to give your money to local projects or NGOs. why give your money to privileged westerners who could get money elsewhere, to do something that might not even end up being good for the indigenous people?

    when i look at your organization, it seems like you’ve started your planning on the premise that global poverty is bad and we need to get rid of it. i guess that makes sense, but when you start with a grand problem, oftentimes you think in grand solutions, not real solutions. since global poverty is such a huge issue, i think you substitute effectiveness for breadth. the moment you say you want to eradicate global poverty is the same moment you become ineffective, because the money you give won’t fund projects that are directly born out of the will and desire of the people you intend to help. if you have a personal stake in a country or people group, then i think your best bet is to focus on them and make your NGO personal. in this way, yes, thousands more organizations are needed because each one is specific to a person’s calling and background, as opposed to a thousand NGOs that all mean to eradicate the monumental problem of global poverty simultaneously. besides… given the gates foundation, usaid and personal donors, i don’t really see a point in giving money to your NGO to give money to another NGO.

    on a final note, i urge you to ask, why does poverty exist in the first place, and what is our (americans’) role in it? it’s not enough to say that there are poor people and as humans we need to help them. why don’t those people just get jobs? if they’re all so poor, why don’t they do something about it themselves? have westerners somehow exploited people? is there a distrust or racism that exists? i think beyond money and projects and whatever, a mutual understanding of the culture and history of impoverished nations (and former colonies) would go a long way in fostering awareness here and effectiveness there.

    but what do i know… anyway, i hope this path ur taking in international development will enrich you and your family in innumerable ways. best of luck.

  13. aaron says:

    if I can kind of defend against what you said Chris….

    first, as for smaller organizations there are many different models out there… one is microlending… it works some places, it does not in others… i think all organizations (big or small) have their successes and failures… to say NGOs do not work… I guess I would ask you if you have seen a starving kid get food or a child get an education? They are working! Are they flawless or have they already erradicated poverty? of course not.

    as far as erradicating poverty and it being too grand of an idea redering you useless… i think the way he said it is that it is possible but not possible to do alone…. i dont think he is planning on raising a bunch of money, shipping it over seas one day and poof problem is solved…. i do not think he sees this organization as the end of poverty, but rather part of the process.

    as for the cultural issues of poverty there are many… i guess you asked a lot of questions… like “why don’t those people just get jobs? why don’t they do something about it themselves?” you seem to mention that we need to understand other cultures and their hisotry, but it seems you lack this understanding youself?? Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are trying to say here…??

  14. eugenecho says:

    Our vision CANNOT eradicate poverty. If I was honest, poverty – locally and globally – will never be gone.

    But one of our hopes is to be moved into action because while we can’t save the world, we can help one child, one family, one village, one area…

    And maybe I didn’t make our vision clear. Our hope is to directly support small organizations and NGOs because my conviction is that they have a deeper idea how to help their village, people, towns, etc. They may lack the resources or tools but from my limited experience, they are sharp people who care for their own.

    Accountability is important but at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone can guarantee that their work or funding will be perfectly administered. You do your work, colloborate, build relationships, and…trust.

  15. Yinan says:

    I fully agree with Eugene’s comment above. There are highly functional NGOs that are making huge progress in the worst poverty scenarios via economic, public policy, health, and education developments. Supporting or joining them would be the best way to be a part of it.

    Starting your own NGO is not only inefficient but wasteful as well. Many other organization barely scratches the surface with some kind of tourist-exposure-like “help”, such as sending Americans oversea for a month. Nothing wrong with those, but they are aimed to help educate/expose the participating Americans more than the people in poverty. If you are already an educated/exposed american, it would be more efficient to donate the travel fund toward a functional NGO. Then, attend their monthly or biannual progress report to see how the $ was used.

  16. BEW says:

    Pastor Eugene –

    My apologies for linking to another blog.. but one of Greg Boyd’s “podrishioners” (folks that participate solely by podcast) has created an intriguing short video. Coming back to this discussion made me think of your efforts. The video’s on Greg’s blog..

    http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/

  17. Leah says:

    I wanted to add another thought that came to me after my last comment.

    Another reason why I welcome such an NPO is also an issue of stewardship (in a way)…

    I don’t have the time, connections, or passion to discover and support other NGOs doing their great work. And, (hopefully I’m right here) I’m guessing that the NGOs your NPO would support would be the kind with very little “advertising”. How else could I hear about and support them without such an NPO to bring them to my attention? I have a limited amount of time, and while giving to the poor and making a difference is one important area, the time it takes to create, cutlivate, and nurture ALL the personal connections involved is beyond my scope, and frankly – I don’t think the best use of my limited resources, as God is helping me allocate them.

    Here’s my analogy: We pay a financial advisor to manage our 401K and our kids’ college funds. In theory, we could research everything and manage the funds ourselves. We do DO a bit of research, but spending lots of our precious time on this activity does not feel like a high-priority item God has for us. Providing for our future and children’s well-being IS a high-priority item (not to retire and do nothing, but to be good stewards of the funds that God has given us and make us more flexible to do things we may be called to in the future by God). So, our advisor takes care of it for us. For us, that is doubly-good stewardship: of our money, and our time.

    Maybe as someone who has chronic pain conditions and a finite limit to functionality I have a different view of stewardship of time and effort. In my life, that stewardship is every bit as crucial (and should be every bit as prayer-guided) as financial stewardship.

    So, to have an NPO that I’m excited about provides great stewardship of my finances AND time. I can use contacts you already have made to (prayerfully) choose where to put my emotional resources. The financial resources would go to the NPO, for whom I would pray to allocate the funds most wisely.

  18. Janet says:

    I think what you are doing in admirable. Seriously, if each person did their own part, the world would be a more beautiful place.

    I am excited to hear more and do what I can to help your endeavors.

  19. [...] fighting poverty Thanks for the feedback on last week’s entry on [Wisely] Fighting Poverty.  After reading the responses, I wanted to share a few more details [...]

  20. [...] people stuff; QCafe stuff; need to feed three kids stuff; need to sell the home stuff; humanitarian organization stuff;  wanting to fly to Myanmar stuff [if they were issuing visas!]; getting ready to head to Asia [...]

  21. [...] heck, anything helps. As you know, we’ve committed $100,000 to get this started.  You can click here to read [...]

  22. [...] Poverty: Loudly | Wisely | Prayerfully | Strategically | Video [...]

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Seattle. Home, sweet home. And home of the Super Bowl champions. Thank you, New York and NJ. You're beautiful. Appreciate your warmth & hospitality. Morning hike. My features over at @miir are hosting a book.giveaway + their world.class  tumblers. "Hot off the press! Eugene Cho, founder of @onedayswages, has a new book titled Overrated that will challenge you to actually change the world. We've got two signed copies to give away. Like this post AND tag a friend for your chance to win both copies and #MiiR tumblers." Good morning from Seattle!

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