The following is Part II in a two-part series (you can read Part I here).
The series was written in response to the following questions:
1. What makes World Concern different than other development organizations?
2. Is being a faith-based organization (FBO) more of a challenge or a strength?
My hope is that you find this both informative and thought provoking. I’d love to hear your responses/questions! (It’s best to share these via commenting below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
How do the FBO’s do it?
From what I’ve seen, World Concern’s Christian basis is the glue that seals together their long-term development vision.
Being a FBO is both a bonus and a challenge. “I think every organization has something about them that wins some and loses some,” says Chris Sheach, World Concern’s Deputy Director of Disaster Response.
For example, due to their faith-based stance, World Concern has been denied multiple large grants (hence the restricted budget), losing a lot of potential funds. However, their faith based status means that World Concern has been able to build deep, lasting partnerships with churches in the U.S. and a variety of other faith-based groups around the world – establishing lasting relationships and consistent private giving (for example see One Village Transformed).
Along these lines, World Concern has faced, and continues to face, issues with security. Working in locations such as Chad, South Sudan and Somalia, they have dealt with a variety of faith-based tensions and threats. In some cases, religion gives reason for being labeled a potential target.
On the other hand, World Concern is inclusive and open to hiring staff from other faith backgrounds. Still, nationals in the areas where they work are aware that World Concern is Christian based.
According to Sheach, “In terms of how we deliver, I don’t think being faith-based should have much to do with it – we should deliver in the best (professional) way possible, to the people that are the most in need of delivery. Perhaps one of the problems with an FBO is that different people have different interpretations of how faith intersects with the process of serving. This doesn’t happen in World Concern.”
“The best thing about working for a FBO is that when I am with beneficiaries, most none of whom are atheist, and whose world views MUST encompass spirituality as a fundamental part of living and daily survival, I already have a bond that allows us to relate,” shares Jane Gunningham, World Concern’s Regional Advisor for Innovation.
Having recently returned to Nairobi from a four month stint in South Sudan, Gunningham continues, “I am not driven by policy to ignore this aspect of reality: in fact, I am allowed to talk about how faith, divine principles and the ultimate nature of existence reside in how we understand and relate to the spiritual underpinning of life. It allows me to recognize how seriously the beneficiaries take their spiritual beliefs, without thinking of them as backwards or superstitious.”
While balancing their values, appealing to the donor, and remaining consistently committed to work that is raw, messy, and long-term, World Concern is trying to live out what they believe in doing – going to the end of the road, staying at the end of the road, and doing it all with a strong sense of purpose.
Is there a formula for successfully fundraising for long-term projects while maintaining a sex appeal; a way to educate the donor mindset – replacing the desired instant gratification from development with long-term change? To be honest, World Concern is still searching. (If you have one, find my contact info below.)
And the ever-morphing future for development work can only tell.
So here’s to continuing down that un-sexy, not-so-profitable, life transforming road.
To learn more about World Concern’s One Village Transformed, click here.