This week is the last week for nominating poverty-fighting ministries for WORLD’s ninth annual Hope Award for Effective Compassion. We’ve received nominations for many appealing ministries in the South, East, and West, but are still short on the Midwest, which in our regional competition extends from Ohio to the Plains states.
Here are the basic rules: Any WORLD reader can nominate a group: It has to be an explicitly Christian non-profit organization that emphasizes challenging, personal, and spiritual help to those in need. We’ve found over the years that thoughtful, individual commitment is essential if compassion—which literally means “with suffering”—is to be effective. In contrast, many federal welfare programs feed bureaucracies, enable unproductive behavior among recipients, and attempt to banish God.
If you know of a local Christian program that you think is effective in helping the poor, please nominate it by emailing June McGraw (email@example.com). Please give the name, city, and website address of the nominated program, and include a brief description of what you admire about it. Nominations are good for more than one year: I have a list of groups previously nominated that are worth a second look now.
Here are instructions I give to WORLD reporters who visit and assess sites:
- What’s the ministry’s mission and why has it taken it on? Who is or are its antagonists? What obstacles has it faced and does it face? Evaluate by perseverance, not grand plans.
- Emphasize human interest, not wonky statistics. Stay near the bottom of the ladder of abstraction by emphasizing specifics, and when you climb to the top to discuss principles and broad applications, climb down quickly.
- Remember that every ministry has problems, so press for information: What’s the biggest difficulty you have? How are you dealing with it? Tell me about a situation that almost sunk this organization.
- On a site visit watch and describe, rather than jotting down lengthy discourses from your guide. Keep quotations short and rare. Look for action, not words. Use nouns and strong verbs; go easy on adjectives and adverbs.
- Do not just rely on the officials showing you around or those who you meet. Try to talk with clients, and not just those handpicked by the organization. Talk with folks in the waiting room, or hanging around outside, or others in a community who have had dealings with the ministries.
- We’re looking for groups that are explicitly Christian. We don’t consider groups that take federal funding. Accepting federal funding doesn’t make a group bad, but such groups are eligible to enter other awards competitions. We want to see how the organization’s Christian witness is evident. Ministries should have been operating for at least three years.
- We’re journalistic, so I want you to come back with information about interesting individuals associated with the ministry and interesting stories to tell about it. You should see what other websites say about the ministry, and you should tell if something raises suspicions.
- You’ll want to be able to give to readers the ministry’s income and expenses last year, the salary of its executive director, the number of employees and volunteers it has. Include its website so people can see for themselves.
- Include some information about the ministry’s finances. Every tax-deductible organization with gross receipts more than $50,000 has to file a 990 or 990-PF. If you’ve never done such research, go to the Foundation Center’s website.
- If you have done such research, you can go directly to the Foundation Center’s 990 finder and look up the organization. Guidestar also has 990s.
- Tax-deductible groups with gross receipts of $50,000 or less need to file a brief informational return with the IRS. You can check out those at the IRS website.