The Difference between a Hand-Up and a Hand-Out
I believe that Frederick County is very fortunate to have responsible nonprofit organizations that understand the difference between a hand-up and a hand-out. Several years ago, a good friend of mine, Robert Eggar, wrote a book: Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Non-profits Responsive, Efficient and Rewarding for All.
The thrust of his book was amazingly simple. Fund the nonprofit agencies that are producing results, not the ones that are continuing the same old services over and over again.
In the 21st Century, a hand-up charitable service is going to be the norm, not the exception. There is less money and a growing sense that funds coming out of Washington will be reduced in the years ahead. There will be less enthusiasm in Congress for social agencies and funds will be harder to get.
My late father said success in the workplace “depending on working smarter,” not faster. He was a coal miner, but he had a great view of the world. He said young people in a coal camp knew it was time to go to work in the mine when their lunch buckets didn’t drag the ground. He never complained. In fact, he was proud of being good at what he did.
I believe we need to combine two things: (1.) Non-profit agencies need to be accountable for the funds they receive. The results they achieve should form the business model for the funds they will receive. (2.) Every agency needs to restore the pride and dignity of the people they serve. The homeless know they are homeless, and they understand how people view them. This is going to be a big job for everyone.
The final thing we need to understand is that poverty can happen to anyone, any time, any place: the death of someone, unexpected sickness, downturn in the economy. The New York Times ran a national survey about 10 years ago and found the average family would have trouble putting $1,000 on the table in a crisis. Most would have to borrow the money or use a credit card.
Frederick County is blessed to have a lot of good people living here, and I think they know what to do. I also think they will respond to the right message.
There will always be a need for shelters. The problem will never really be solved. The important thing to remember is that many of the needy families in Frederick didn’t plan to live this way. Every one of them has a story to tell.
Alan Christian served as a consultant to the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs for 15 years. He is currently a consultant to Advocates for Homeless Families. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org