“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
It’s a well-known adage. If you fail to make a plan whatever you’re hoping to achieve will likely fail. Will it always fail? Probably not. But, I do think it’s better said, “Fail to plan, expect inefficiency.”
But, how does this relate to Afghanistan?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched in horror as the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan with horrifying speed and catastrophic force. I’ve watched as desperation and fear have driven people to do unimaginable things to save their lives and families.
I have also watched as many not-for-profit organisations responded with similar speed, producing campaigns and projects seemingly overnight, driven by emotion and opportunity.
The challenge we face as charities is: do we use crises as an opportunity to raise large amounts of money (fail to plan) or ensure that people on all sides are honoured and money is used with a purpose?
In the absence of a plan, there is a great risk that it is simply about growing our business.
I want to acknowledge we’re not immune to this. At Open Doors, we’re fundraisers who desperately want to serve the persecuted church. But this cannot surpass our call to honour the Lord with our work and our promises to both donors and recipients.
In the last two weeks, I’ve been publicly questioned as to why Open Doors didn’t respond immediately and have a fundraising campaign up within 24 hrs.
I’ve watched as other organisations have, in part, made outlandish promises about what they’re able to do in this crisis – even when many Western organisations are withdrawing staff and pathways to deliver aid on the ground are completely restricted or controlled by the Taliban.
Open Doors has had a slower response. Which is both a challenge and a blessing. It’s a challenge because the world’s attention quickly moves on making fundraising more difficult. However, it is also a blessing because we’re able to stay focussed and comitted to ensuring what we promise we can deliver will be done so with wisdom, safety and reliability.
To give some insight into Open Doors’ response to the Afghanistan crisis, here are 7 questions we wrestle through when responding to crises:
1. Is this Christian persecution?
We’ve been serving the persecuted church since 1955 and have been tempted on many occasions to step in and help in a variety of other areas. However, if it is not our field of expertise we should re-direct people to organisations that are already working effectively in that area.
2. What is the scale of the problem?
We need to consider how many people are affected, and how many Christians are affected?
3. Where is the main need likely to be located (e.g. geographically)?
Concerning Afghanistan, if we don’t articulate clearly the money is likely to be used in neighbouring countries as people flee, there is a huge chance we’ll be limited with funds that legally must be used in Afghanistan.
4. Can we deliver what we say we will?
We need to ask what are the needs of the people affected. If, for example, it was food as people flee, where do we buy the food from and how do we ensure the equitable distribution of it?
5. Does it put people in danger?
Will our response (e.g. public fundraising campaigns) put people in the country in danger? Being a Christian comes at a great cost in countries like Afghanistan. We must be careful what we say and the impact it could have on people.
6. Is the church in neighbouring countries under restriction? And if so, how does our involvement impact them?
If one of our key pathways to help is utilising the local church, what does the church look like in neighbouring countries? And will our help put them in danger?
7. How long will the problem last?
We need to consider whether the crisis will last months, years or decades. We don’t want to come in, help in the short-term, then all of a sudden vanish. How can we help most effectively?
In Afghanistan, there are risks to people’s safety and quite literally their lives.
There are challenges with auditing, transparency in fundraising for both government requirements and our donors, with getting money raised into the region and with end-to-end reporting and impact reporting to make sure that the money is being spent as it’s meant. And there is much wisdom in knowing what this situation looks like in three, five and 10 years.
To be clear, I am not saying other organisations are untrustworthy, not at all. I am however saying in the absence of a plan, inefficiency reigns.
As charities, we need to be less focused on “ambulance chasing” and seeing crises as an opportunity to increase the revenue for our organisations. Instead, we need to be more focused on sticking to our core values, delivering what we say we will, protecting the people involved and working hard to help those affected by this disaster.
Afghanistan is going to be a multi-year humanitarian problem and will be felt in neighbouring countries for years to come. Responding to it requires a plan, a long-term plan.
We might be slower; we may not even be able to help in ways people think we should, but one thing we can assure you is that we never promise more than we can deliver. It might make us slower, but I will always choose purpose and impact over speed.
If you would like to commit to providing urgent aid and long-term support to strengthen the church in the region, please visit this page or call us on 02 9451 2999.
Thank you for your ongoing partnership as we continue to work to see Christians supported and the Church strengthened around the world.
CEO Open Doors Australia