Faithful with Little: The Responsibility of Non-Profits

There are administrative costs associated with any nonprofit. Among other things, these costs are necessary to provide a living wage to employees.  Administrative costs also cover all the expenses associated with physical space, including but not limited to ‘keeping the lights on.’

In recent days, many nonprofits have suffered a loss or reduction of their support base because of allegations of fiscal mismanagement.  It is disconcerting, to say the least, when an individual wants to help a worthy nonprofit that purports to serve the poor in the third-world only to discover that the nonprofit’s ‘operating costs’ are excessive by standards in the first-world.

This graph highlights differing residential electricity use around the world. Such information is helpful when considering what is a 'need,' and what is mere preference. 

Like other nonprofit organizations, we, too, have operating costs—real, fixed expenses that have to be paid regardless of the amount of monthly contributions we receive.  Throughout the years, we have had months that could be described as lean; those months have served to allow us to see the faithfulness of God’s provision.  Although we continue to trust God to meet all of our needs, such trust is not independent of our responsibility to do what we can to minimize our expenses.  We strive to be good managers of the financial resources that we are entrusted with. Yes, we have to ‘keep the lights on’ but that doesn’t mean that they burn indiscriminately.  As an organization that is funded by the generosity of people concerned with justice and one that is ever mindful of the extreme poverty of the majority world, we are committed to reducing costs whenever possible.

The adage, “a penny saved is a penny earned” is more a reminder of days past than a modern day practice.  The value of a penny is considered so insignificant that they are often thrown away, lost, or never collected as change from store clerks or vendors. However, we do not, cannot, subscribe to a philosophy that teaches that small savings are not worth consideration.  We owe it our supporters, our friends in the 3rd world, and our God, to manage well.  For us, being responsible means that we spend wisely and conserve intentionally.  Pennies count. Taking care of the ‘little things’ is the indicator of what kind of manager a person will be.  Luke 16 speaks to this very issue in a parable in which Jesus teaches: “whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much...”

A map of the night-time city lights of the world constructed from images taken by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Operational Linescan System.

This month we are encouraging G.O.D. Intl. employees and students to help reduce our light bill by 10%.  When we turn lights off in unused rooms and adjust temperatures to modest comfort, we realize that that savings can be funneled to meet other needs. Even though a 10% reduction in our light bill will not significantly lower our monthly expenditures, it will have a cumulative and holistic effect on our organization here and our influence in the world as we practice faithfulness with the ‘little things.’

For several of the young people associated with our organization, it is as if the ‘lights came on’ when they realized that the virtue of self-control extends to their energy consumption. Because light appears to be automatically generated by the flip of a switch, the cost and consequence is seldom considered.  As people of God, we teach that we are not only responsible to be good stewards of our resources but to consider those living in the majority world who suffer consistent power shortages.  For example, “India remains perennially energy starved.”  Compared to the “U.S’s per capita rate of consumption of power of 13,647 units, India has one of the lowest rates at 734 units (world average is 2,429).”  As of 2012, only nine of India’s 28 states have been “officially declared totally electrified” (1).  It is not just statistics that propels a response to this inequity, but the remembrance of men, women and children who live in this dark reality.  We believe we can make a difference when we curb our appetite for energy consumption and employ a mindset of societal responsibility for those who are still waiting for their fair share of light.

1. Ten Interesting Things About India Power, BBC News India, Soutik Biswas, Delhi Correspondent, July 31, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-19063241