Kids want to know problems with NGOs

February 24, 2010 at 3:27 PM 1 comment

“Have you ever had a student who gave money to an NGO that was corrupt and “disappeared”? Several students asked similar questions.  Anne, I wonder if you’d share what you know about this.

Marvin shared that he Googled his NGO + scandal, and had dug up some dirt on one of the founders. But also said that since then, the organization had made recovered.

I suspect that the main way that donated money goes astray is when people who collect it forget to actually mail it in. Thinking of that cues me to require that students show a receipt from the NGO as part of their evidence on their poster that they did make a difference. that was a bit patchy last year.

Another student said “Isn’t it kind of  mean to even ask that?” And you know, I had not thought of it like that, but the skeptical attitude that is emeshed in the scientific method CAN be perceived as mean

Anne, you also brought up that many NGOs do not post the science behind their actions. For example, what is the data about the problem – is there a problem? How big is it? What’s the trend?  What will the measure or count to see if their actions are making things better or worse? Plus the concepts behind the problem and action. Sort of like the powerpoint students were asked to do only maybe in a little more depth.

I’m suggesting that students make the science suggestion to the NGO they support in a tactful way. Maybe as suggestions embedded in with praise – “Really appreciate what your organization is doing for ___. We are interested to know more about the science behind___ . We wondered if you might put up a page on your website to explain.” or something similar.

Oh, I am so tactful. Just ask my family… 🙂



Entry filed under: Critical Thinking, Curiosity, Data Analysis, TAP Curriculum. Tags: , , , .

21. Evaluating NGOs – What’s hard? What’s surprising? Grouping, inquiry and project work – what size is best?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. annemccartengibbs  |  February 24, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    I want to emphasize to your students that the vast majority of people involved in the nonprofit world are there because they want to make a difference. It is not the field that people go into when they want to make a lot of money, nor where they head if they wanted to steal a lot of money.

    I have never heard of an organization that was corrupt or fake and collected money and then disappeared as an organization. There are very rare instances where an individual who worked in a nonprofit steals money from it. And after natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti we do, sadly, see scammers that are not nonprofit organizations at all trying to collect money and run off with it. (Which I guess is a fake organization, but these are usually very quick ad-based things that don’t stay around long enough to be traced by the police, rather than something with more structure.)

    I hope the students will be just as skeptical about what they might read when they Google “nonprofit + scandal” as they are about the nonprofits themselves. Was the information from a legitimate news source, like a newspaper or local TV news station? Or just one person’s opinion on their blog or web site? Remember that people can put untrue information on the web and it can be very hard to remove. If damaging information is only put forward by one person (and maybe others just copying what the first one said with no additional personal knowledge), I would want to be sure that they were not motivated by some kind of anger or grudge.

    As for nonprofits not giving more information about the science behind their work – it was the kids that brought that up, not me. And good for them! I think it would be great for them to hear from students wanting to know more. Saying it is for a school project gives a good reason, if it feels rude. The organizations may have materials that aren’t on their web sites that have more information. Many nonprofits are understaffed right now because their donations are down due to the economy, but I would hope that someone would take a few minutes to reply to a polite email from a student. Let me know how that goes.




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