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Effectively Communicating What Your Cause Really Does

Typically, charities are better at asking for help than they are at demonstrating success at their mission. That’s why I was heartened by this ad from Save the Children.

Only the savviest of a charity's supporters understand what their charities do in a specific way.

We all know that food bank puts food on the shelves, that nonprofit hospitals treat sick people, that aid charities help people in extremis, and that pet rescue charities move pets out of bad situations.

But knowing a food bank’s mission doesn’t exactly clue you into how important logistics are to them. Aid charities succeed or fail based in part on the quality of personal relationships with local officials. All the good things a hospital does can be erased if it can’t also rein in infections.

With Save the Children effectively communicates what saving children looks like at the ground level in the developing world.

In effect it’s a kind of blog, with posts from Save the Children health workers in a half dozen countries on four continents. Here’s a post from Madalitso Masa, who, along with her husband works with about 100 families in Malawi in east Africa:
“Many vaccinations took place this week as we welcomed three beautiful, healthy newborns into my community. What joy! Building trust takes time. But after so many healthy newborns were delivered, many of the communities have embraced me and expressed their confidence in my abilities. It is wonderful to have a job where I can improve the well-being of others through my work and learn about their different cultures, customs, and values.”
The posts are all undated and in English and allow comments. There are photos of the workers and their charges, a short biography, and a kind of scorecard of the work they did over the last month. Madalitso, for instance, treated 2 children for diarrhea, 4 for malaria, vaccinated 11, and made 6 newborn baby house visits.

It wasn’t clear to me whether these stats were for April 2011 or just a snapshot of what she generally does. Still, this is on-the-ground charity work made concrete.

I’d be surprised to learn that all the featured health workers write English, although in Malawi English is one of the official languages. Still I suspect that a lot of language and cultural translation took place in order to keep these posts up to date. looks pretty straight forward, but it’s a safe bet that because of distance and language hundreds of staff-hours go into making it look so.

Of course this is also a fundraising effort. You can donate right at the website. But it’s not primarily about raising money. Instead, with Save the Children is telling you why you would want to donate.

I greatly admire what Save the Children has done here.

Most domestic charities could do the same, if more easily.

Imagine, a pet rescue charity, for instance, live-blogging the rescue of pets from the flooded areas along the Mississippi River, for instance. Or a food bank following one item of food a week; from the moment when it's donated, to the transportation and warehousing it undergoes, to the point where it lands in the home of the family where it will be consumed.

It's fair to say that Save the Children, which takes in nearly $450 million a year, is better staffed for communications like this than the average food bank. But someone could do everything I've just suggested with a flip camera, a digital camera, and a notebook.


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