My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Ignatian Volunteer Corps, Baltimore, MD, USA
OK, full disclosure: I'm a donor, a volunteer and an employee of IVC, so I'm not completely objective. Having said that, I've worked in a Fortune 500 company, a large international nonprofit, and have been on the boards of a couple of other nonprofits. So I have a pretty good sense for what makes a nonprofit effective and worthy of support.
And I can say without hesitation that IVC is worthy of support. It's got an interesting combination of national presence (in 17 or so major metro areas), and lean, but effective administrative structure. IVC does a great job of matching volunteers with existing social service agencies in the cities where they serve. So they're not re-creating the wheel by starting an additional agency to serve people in need. Rather, they help bring needed skills and talent to existing nonprofits by matching the skills and experience of volunteers with the missions that they are interested in working in.
It's a win/win/win: talented volunteers get placed in service doing something they are passionate about, local nonprofits get access to high-caliber volunteer talent that they would normally have to pay for, and people in need get the help they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
Finally, the spiritual and community support part of the IVC model helps volunteers to nurture their faith by matching them with a spiritual reflector (trained in Igatian Spirituality) and bringing volunteers together once a month to meet as a volunteer community. This support in turn strengthens the resilience of volunteers, helping them to keep coming back, year after year, despite the challenging work that they do.
That's why I continue to donate to IVC - I'd like to see it expand to more metro areas in the US.
Review for Catholic Relief Services, Baltimore, MD, USA
I worked for CRS for over ten years. While I worked at the headquarters in Baltimore, my work occasionally gave me the opportunity to travel overseas for meetings and training sessions. Before and after those meetings, I had the opportunity to visit programs in the field and learn how CRS does its work. Coming out of the corporate sector, I didn't have much knowledge of international relief and development work, so I learned a lot. And the more I learned, the more I came to appreciate how thoughtful CRS is about the way it helps people and communities living in poverty or recovering from natural disasters.
CRS doesn't just swoop in and fix problems. They start by listening to the local communities, to find out what's important to them. And they work hard to involve those communities in developing solutions to the problems they're facing, because CRS recognizes that if the people affected by a program don't believe in it, it will never work. In addition, CRS works with local partners to build their capacity to design, implement and manage programs, so that the communities become more resilient over time, and less reliant on outside resources to overcome challenges. CRS is one of the best organizations helping people in need overseas.
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Give it a dramatically bigger marketing budget so that more people could learn about the amazing work they do. As the folks at CRS often say, it's one of the best-kept secrets in the Catholic Church. Even those who know of CRS often think of it only as an emergency relief organization. And while CRS is really good at emergency relief, it also does amazing work in helping to lift people and communities out of poverty, helping to take care of people living with HIV/AIDS, and much more.
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