Image for Credibility

The other day, I wanted to donate to a charity for children’s education in poor countries, a cause I feel strongly about. I went to Charity Navigator’s website and checked out a couple big names in children’s education. Charity Navigator is a nonprofit that ranks charities on various metrics such as transparency and financial accountability.

I passed over one organization because it had only one star out of four for finances. Another organization had four stars—a top rating. But as I looked over the details, I was surprised to see that the organization pays its president and CEO more than $400,000 per year. Charity Navigator factors CEO compensation into its ratings, and this executive’s pay is typical for the size of her organization. At the same time, it was difficult for me to get past the fact that the CEO’s salary could have paid for the educations of 853 children per year and still compensated her with $100,000 annually.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s essential that nonprofits take care of their employees, including top leadership. But at some level of compensation, taking care of employees becomes something else—an issue of credibility. Nonprofit organizations whose leaders live frugally in order to put more money toward the organization’s mission are inherently more credible. Why? Because such organizations’ leaders show that they believe in their causes in the same way that they ask you and I to believe in them—with our wallets. That is a powerful message.

The credibility factor is one of the reasons I enjoy working at Adventist Frontier Missions. Our president earns just a fraction of what Charity Navigator’s study shows is typical at nonprofits. Why? Because he cares enough about AFM’s work to forego the larger salary he could make almost anywhere else. And he’s not alone. Several of my colleagues give to every AFM project at least once. Many AFM employees work here despite opportunities to earn significantly more money in private industry or at other nonprofits. And of course our missionaries give up their highest-earning years to do difficult work overseas without a lot of pay.

The sacrifice of AFM’s leaders and missionaries is a powerful testimony to me, both as an employee and as a supporter. It’s a testimony backed up by numbers. AFM recently received a clean audit—so clean, in fact, that the auditors said there was nothing AFM could do better. Likewise, AFM is one of a very small group of organizations that Charity Navigator has awarded four stars for four consecutive years. Those numbers point to leadership that believes in our mission.

So what did I end up doing with the money I earmarked for children’s education? I gave it to an AFM school project. After all my research on Charity Navigator, I ended up keeping the money here at AFM.

Today, I invite you to consider doing the same. If, like me, you feel called to support AFM’s work, give us a call or email us. We’re happy to share the passion that drives us. Let’s talk about how we can continue together to “store up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20).

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