United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF) estimates that over 10 million Nigerian children are out of school. Imole Adeyeri is one of several individuals and organizations trying to bridge the gap. She is a non-profit sector professional. In this chat, among other issues,she explains why, in her Indianapolis,USA base, she took up a book drive initiative and why the non-profit sector, if adequately harnessed properly, can contribute to the economic development of the country.
By Olalekan Bilesanmi
You are into philanthropy, how do you make a living and have a fulfilled life from non-profit ventures?
Philanthropy is a voluntary action for the public good, and it was derived from the Greek word “philia” which means love. It will not be out of place to call philanthropy the promotion of love of mankind. Being in the philanthropic sector or non-profit field or working for a non-governmental organization as it known in Nigeria is a calling. It is similar to people who chose other vocations such as teachers, engineers, nurses, nuns, pastors and so on. In as much as you are passionate about helping people in need, or ensuring that things are done properly, or ensuring that people are treated fairly, you are extending love to mankind. Fulfillment, just like success, is relative. It will be difficult to give a generic definition to fulfillment. A lot of people chose their career paths for prestige, money or to earn a living not necessarily fulfillment. Also, what I will consider as fulfillment may not be the same for other people even within the same career sector. However, in the non-profit world, personal or organizational gain should never overshadow the collective impact on beneficiaries, and naturally impact brings fulfillment. On an individual level, a philanthropic action is something you will still embark on even if no one is motivating you or a salary is offered. The desire to do the right thing voluntarily is a recipe for fulfillment.
To the second question about making a living, I believe what you mean is financial survival while running a non-profit venture. Let me say this, running a non-profit organization does not mean it should be run at a loss. It is called not-for-profit but at the same time, it is a not-for-loss endeavor. More recently, many organizations are moving beyond just ‘breaking-even’ to being more sustainable by introducing social impact ideas and social entrepreneurship. It is acceptable for a non-profit staff to earn decent salaries, what would be worrisome is when a non-profit organization spends so much on overhead rather than the purpose for which it was created. According to a 2012 survey ‘Where’d my money go’ by an Arizona-based research and consulting firm, it was recommended that a non-profit organization should not spend more than 23 percent of its income on overhead; and BBB Wise Giving Alliance pegged fund-raising cost at 35 percent of related contributions or received donations. In as much as the sector depends heavily on donations, free-will gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations, it is important to uphold the faith and trust donors have in non-profits to deliver on projects as agreed on.
Which parts of the world have philanthropy taken you and what were you involved in those countries?
I spent my early career years in Nigeria. From 2008 to 2015, I worked with different non-profit/civil society organizations in the country. I coordinated the popular Democratic Leadership Training Workshops and Legislative Internship Programs for the Africa Leadership Forum in Ota for some years, before I moved to Abuja to co-manage the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program, after which I made an attempt to mobilize indigenous resources for a USAID/CDC/PEPFAR implementing organization in Abuja. In late 2015, I moved to the United States and returned to school to learn more about raising funds for development and was fortunate to be admitted to the first and the best school of philanthropy in the world, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
While studying at the school of philanthropy, I was opportune to work with the Foundation Partnership team at the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington DC and Lumina Foundation for Education, Indianapolis: an independent foundation committed to making post-secondary/ high school learning opportunities available to all. Apart from excelling in my academic pursuit, I received honors for being involved in community service and civic engagement in my community. I recently conducted a book drive for out of school children population in Nigeria in order to reduce the 10.5 million estimates by the UNICEF.
I supposed these are indigent school children
Not only indigent, some of the kids are internally displaced as a result of Boko Haram and other natural disasters they cannot control. I did that intervention because of my love for education and children. 10.5million is a staggering figure(population of Libya and Liberia combined) and if nothing is done Nigeria may end up with a generation of uneducated people in the nearest future. I also supported the hosting of Mandela-Washington Fellowship for Young Africa Leaders, popularly known as YALI at Indiana University.
In the course of helping others and moving from one place to the other, as a young mother and wife whose marriage is still young, how do you juggle both that none is hindered?
Hmmm, Marriage is about two imperfect people, who have made deliberate decisions to stick together through thick and thin. I think I am one of the lucky ladies with a great husband. My husband is liberal minded and my number one cheerleader. He believes I have my personal goals which must be accomplished and marriage should reinforce rather than undermine it. So, that makes everything easy. There were challenges no doubt, but when there is a solid understanding between both parties, the tendency of finding solutions to such challenges cannot be far-fetched. I will say that my son is the most affected because he is always on the move with me. He’s been forced to change schools and interact with new people at a tender age, I think it could be a good thing for him in the future but right now I am guilty of messing up his stability.
How can NGOs be a developmental tool particularly in developing countries like Nigeria?
Non-Governmental Organizations or non-profits or civil society or the whole third sector depending on the appropriate nomenclature in Nigeria is an untapped goldmine for development. The non-profits sector in the developed world like the United Kingdom, Belgium, United States, Canada, Netherlands and many more are great contributors to economic growth and development and it should not be different in Nigeria but it will require conscious efforts from government and different multi-level stakeholders.
First, there is a need for a strong government-non-profit relationship, which will be followed by regulations and concessions that will make the sector a viable partner in economic development. The era of solely depending on government for the provision of goods and services is fast waning, in fact, Nigerian citizens are regularly losing trust in the ability of the government to provide basic amenities but the nonprofits have the capacity to harness support from the government, individuals and business sector if strengthened.
Regulatory frameworks will ensure accountability and transparency, for instance, the promoters of the nonprofit organizations cannot share proceeds from such organization and must deal with it at ‘arms-length’ while concessions will promote fiscal incentives to indigenous donors. For example, provision of tax relief to personal and corporate income taxes up to a certain threshold will encourage high net-worth individuals to support the sector. Registered nonprofit organizations can also benefit from issuing tax exemption receipt to donors for subsequent deductions during annual tax filing. It will also ensure proper classification of nonprofit organizations because of a high rate of ‘briefcase’ nonprofit organizations in the country.
Second, the nonprofit sector alone can generate millions of jobs. From financial advisory professionals to fundraisers, accountants, and lawyers to direct gifts and maximize tax benefits for donation. Grant writers, Major Gift Officers, Development officers, Growth and Advancement officers in case of Universities and Institutes of Higher Education, and case managers and social workers are also new roles that would spring up in the sector. Self-regulating agencies, training, capacity building, academic and research opportunities, curriculum development are also some of the emerging benefits associated with strengthening the nonprofit sector in Nigeria.
Heavy dependence on international aids and grants will also reduce drastically, and the opportunity to raise funds from Endowment, Donor Advised Funds, Charitable Trusts and Annuities, Private Grant making Foundations and Planned gifts (set up by people in their twilight to allow them to realize tax benefits on their bequests in their lifetime.) would rise.
Finally, the citizens of Nigeria would understand the psychology behind giving, the real altruistic feeling of lending a hand to people in need, the true joy of living a fulfilled life because in the well-being of individuals that we support lies our own aliveness.
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