Tonight, Chris and I were invited by a good friend of mine to the annual Upwardly Global gala. My friend actively volunteers and was previously a board member of this organization, which is a nonprofit that helps work-authorized immigrants find jobs here in the U.S. My friend has been actively volunteering with Upwardly Global since 2008, so it’s a cause he’s very passionate about. Unfortunately, the goals of the organization do not jive very well with Chris, who is an immigrant in this country and thinks that the organization glosses over the hardest part about being an immigrant in this country — actually getting into this country and achieving legal work authorization, either via a work visa or the much coveted green card. I agree that the organization does gloss that over, but it’s not what its goal is. I can’t even imagine a nonprofit that actually helped with that process and the types of legal fees and overhead they would need to spend. It’s a separate struggle to get work in this country even with work authorization, and that’s what Upwardly Global strives to do.
What I am not a fan of in terms of nonprofits and donating to them is the perceived “black hole” that donations go into. If I am donating to an organization, I want to know that my dollars are actually going to something tangible that I can see having an effect. The saddest part about a lot of nonprofits is that so many of the donation dollars end up going towards hazy “administrative costs,” and not toward the actual work that the organization is striving to do. I asked my friend where the tickets costs ($500 each) were going, and he said he wasn’t sure and that it would be decided by the board. That’s not really a good sign. I was grateful to be invited and to attend, but I’m just not sure about this black hole. It also didn’t put a good taste in my mouth that all the servers at Guastavino’s barely spoke English and also couldn’t tell me what they were serving. They had no idea what type of fish they were giving me, and when they told me that dessert was pineapple upside down cake, it was actually a horrendous peach cobber with peaches that tasted canned. These are the people we should really be helping through this organization, right? Well, I guess we can’t because these people probably don’t have green cards.
At least I know that one nonprofit I fund raise for, AFSP, keeps its administrative costs below 25 percent.