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“Your investment of management experience and personal encouragement combined with the passion, knowledge and energy of the NGO people will create synergy to maximize the impact of your donation.”

Rick Tang, Trustee of Fu Tak Iam Foundation


Recently, an Ivy League educated young man told me that some members of his family foundation believe that they should not be involved actively with the NGO that they are supporting. They believe the line should be drawn at funding the charitable causes. He is troubled. His heart is in transforming society by working closely with the front line NGO’s. He has joined a NGO, earning a humble wage, instead of pursuing a financially enriching career, which he is well qualified to do. He raised a good question: should we, as donors, get involved with the activities of the NGO’s?


I firmly believe so, but let me clarify first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with donors not getting involved with the NGO’s. Your donation is generous enough and the recipients are grateful. You treasure your privacy and would like to support the less fortunate or a worthy cause in your own private way. I commend you. Your mind and heart are at the right place and your financial support is very honourable.


In my years of working with the NGO’s, I have noticed that the people are good at what they do when they are a small team. However when they grow to a certain size, they may not have the management experience or organizational skills to run the team or the multi-programs. This is one area where donors with the appropriate experience can create synergy by partnering with them. A few cautionary reminders:


First, be very sensitive about the manner in which you transfer your skills and experience to the NGO. Don’t lord over them just because you desire maximum impact of your generous donation. A critical success factor of any NGO is the passion and energy of the people. Don’t take it away from them unintentionally. You CAN be a gentle coach, an encouraging mentor.


Second, don’t take over the running of any part of the program for them. The NGO is usually knowledgeable about their clients and spheres of influence. But a number of them are not skilled in articulating their strategy. I once made a terrible mistake of drafting the strategy for their review, because it was expedient for me to do so. It did NOT work! Instead, help them to formulate their own strategy. One way to do so is to schedule a meeting with the leaders and the ones responsible for operation. Ask them to assign a person to be the “draftsman”. Then ask probing questions and write their ideas on a white board or a flip chart. Discuss the points raised. Guide them to organize their thoughts. Coach the draftsman to write up the first draft for their comments. In other words, be a facilitator. Let them remain OWNER of their strategy.


With respect to operational plans, if you have planning expertise, help them focus on connecting the dots vertically and horizontally. Review their communication channels. This is a weak area which is often taken for granted.


If your NGO is running smoothly, why don’t you visit them at where their action is? Show your interest in what they do. Give the leaders and workers a word of encouragement. Don’t underestimate the power of your affirmation. Being a donor, you are a special person to them. Your encouragement will reinforce their devotion and touch them profoundly.


The Fu Tak Iam Foundation funds a Master of Laws program run by City University for mainland judges. It is carefully designed by the university Law school and trains about 30 judges per year who are selected by a vigorous process. Some of our trustees meet them at City University on various occasions to understand how they are doing, their aspirations and challenges. In addition, one of our trustees hosts a private dinner for them each year since the inception of the program. This gives us an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with them in a relaxing environment. They share their journeys with us. We listen, and we encourage them. I believe our trustee’s personal touch enhances substantially the impact on the judges and the Law school leadership.

 

To recap, your donation per se is important to the recipients. They are immensely grateful. I hope I have also shared with you how your investment of management experience and personal encouragement combined with the passion, knowledge and energy of the NGO people will create synergy to maximize the impact of your donation.
 

Rick Tang, Trustee of Fu Tak Iam Foundation


Recently, an Ivy League educated young man told me that some members of his family foundation believe that they should not be involved actively with the NGO that they are supporting. They believe the line should be drawn at funding the charitable causes. He is troubled. His heart is in transforming society by working closely with the front line NGO’s. He has joined a NGO, earning a humble wage, instead of pursuing a financially enriching career, which he is well qualified to do. He raised a good question: should we, as donors, get involved with the activities of the NGO’s?


I firmly believe so, but let me clarify first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with donors not getting involved with the NGO’s. Your donation is generous enough and the recipients are grateful. You treasure your privacy and would like to support the less fortunate or a worthy cause in your own private way. I commend you. Your mind and heart are at the right place and your financial support is very honourable.


In my years of working with the NGO’s, I have noticed that the people are good at what they do when they are a small team. However when they grow to a certain size, they may not have the management experience or organizational skills to run the team or the multi-programs. This is one area where donors with the appropriate experience can create synergy by partnering with them. A few cautionary reminders:


First, be very sensitive about the manner in which you transfer your skills and experience to the NGO. Don’t lord over them just because you desire maximum impact of your generous donation. A critical success factor of any NGO is the passion and energy of the people. Don’t take it away from them unintentionally. You CAN be a gentle coach, an encouraging mentor.


Second, don’t take over the running of any part of the program for them. The NGO is usually knowledgeable about their clients and spheres of influence. But a number of them are not skilled in articulating their strategy. I once made a terrible mistake of drafting the strategy for their review, because it was expedient for me to do so. It did NOT work! Instead, help them to formulate their own strategy. One way to do so is to schedule a meeting with the leaders and the ones responsible for operation. Ask them to assign a person to be the “draftsman”. Then ask probing questions and write their ideas on a white board or a flip chart. Discuss the points raised. Guide them to organize their thoughts. Coach the draftsman to write up the first draft for their comments. In other words, be a facilitator. Let them remain OWNER of their strategy.


With respect to operational plans, if you have planning expertise, help them focus on connecting the dots vertically and horizontally. Review their communication channels. This is a weak area which is often taken for granted.


If your NGO is running smoothly, why don’t you visit them at where their action is? Show your interest in what they do. Give the leaders and workers a word of encouragement. Don’t underestimate the power of your affirmation. Being a donor, you are a special person to them. Your encouragement will reinforce their devotion and touch them profoundly.


The Fu Tak Iam Foundation funds a Master of Laws program run by City University for mainland judges. It is carefully designed by the university Law school and trains about 30 judges per year who are selected by a vigorous process. Some of our trustees meet them at City University on various occasions to understand how they are doing, their aspirations and challenges. In addition, one of our trustees hosts a private dinner for them each year since the inception of the program. This gives us an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with them in a relaxing environment. They share their journeys with us. We listen, and we encourage them. I believe our trustee’s personal touch enhances substantially the impact on the judges and the Law school leadership.

 

To recap, your donation per se is important to the recipients. They are immensely grateful. I hope I have also shared with you how your investment of management experience and personal encouragement combined with the passion, knowledge and energy of the NGO people will create synergy to maximize the impact of your donation.