Tag Archives: trust

Transparent Trust

The conversation of donor trust has been on mind lately.

Donors are the enablers.  They enable our development, our projects, our programs to get off the whiteboard and into reality.  Without funding, our programs couldn’t be implemented, much less flourish over generations.  Donors are the ‘man behind the curtain’.  Without them, we would only be talking, and we’d much rather be DOING.

Yet it’s a huge leap of faith when a donor commits his or her money to an organization that they are not connected to.  Hell, its a huge leap of faith to give money to your own brother/sister/uncle/cousin.  The donor is saying, “I trust you with my hard-earned money.  I believe you will use this money wisely to change lives, empower communities, and make the world a better place.”   It is up to us, as an organization, to inspire trust by our words.  Develop trust by our actions.  Sustain trust by our transparency.

Our founding ethos was to connect communities and cultures within our projects.  Creating dialogues and cultural exchanges.  In short, making sure we share our project communities with our donor communities.  It is difficult when we are operating halfway around the world, in a country surviving nearly 4 decades of conflict, to bring donors into our project communities.   Video, photography, and documentation become integral to showing donors how their money is spent and who it is affecting.  Art and photography exchanges between US and Afghan classrooms is another connection and one that allows us to connect students specifically.

In addition, collaboration is one of our core values.  We work closely with local organizations and communities to create sustainable programs.

Collaboration is key in conflict regions.  We seek advice, and often partner with other NGO’s, local organizations, business partners, and the like to make sure we use money effectively and wisely, but also to make sure that our projects can have accountability outside of our organization.  Ensuring that more than one perspective has been heard when making decisions, and more than one set of eyes sees our projects.

We are not infallible.  Mistakes will be made, but we will own up to mistakes, learn from them, and work to ensure they don’t reoccur.  Sweeping our mistakes under a carpet will not help us grow as an organization, or help nurture trust with donors.

This full disclosure relates to the financial documentation as well.  Financial disclosure through our 990’s posted online and our financial statements upon request.  Board members that can understand the breadth and depth of our projects and overall vision, that can speak openly with donors.  Board members that have a say in our long-term strategy and work to provide oversight to ensure we stay on track.

I believe that if we can grow Mountain2Mountain with an internal and external policy of open communication and transparency, we can develop bonds with our donors and projects that will build a sustainable organization to support the women and children of Afghanistan for generations to come.

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Gut Check

murad-khane-classroomAnyone who knows me, knows that I use my heart WAY more than my head.  Perhaps to a fault?  I follow my heart and trust my gut far above logic and facts.  That’s what lead me down this path in the first place!  Yet, its never done me wrong.

I read a book, followed my heart, and created an organization to support the education of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan through Greg Mortenson’s, Central Asia Institute.  I dove into the deep end because I HAD TO.   In short seven months we had galvanized a community and exceeded our intended goal with lots of hard work, but truly little ‘effort’.

Then the success of what we had accomplished washed over us and we hurried to build on that momentum we had created with another partner in a different region, but it didn’t feel right.  Nothing clicked.  Things didn’t gel.  Was I my own version of a one-hit-wonder?  Doubts crept in and frustration created a plummeting energy drain that made keeping on task painfully difficult.  Yet the community project in Nepal we were supporting was just as important as the schools in Pakistan, why was it so different this time around?

I just accepted that perhaps the thrill of the first steps and the wild popularity that swirled around Greg Mortenson’s work and his book, “Three Cups of Tea” buoyed us up.  Perhaps this was an unrepeatable experience.

Then I went to Afghanistan.  Despite friends, family, and colleagues advising me to think twice.  Despite the general view that it was unnecessary.  Despite the money.  Despite the risk.  Internally, I never wavered.  Not from stubbornness, but because my gut said, “GO!”  Deep inside I knew I HAD to go and that I would figure it all out before, during, and after.

And that is what I realized has to happen as Mountain to Mountain becomes its own, self-sustaining non profit organization.   Moving from partnering with non profits to becoming our own.  Our evolution has become necessary.   To become sustainable, to do things ‘our way’, and to set our own course.  The gut check says, you know what you want to do, go do it.  There is enough red tape in the world without creating more.  Just go, be, do.

This means that our Board of Directors has to think outside the box and look at how we set ourselves apart, becoming a non profit that doesn’t try to fit within the old molds of operation.  Becoming a 21st century organization, that is willing to think globally AND locally.   Our tagline of connecting communities and cultures was laid out in black and white in Afghanistan.  Make a local connection so that people understand where their money is going, why they should support our projects, and how it will change lives.   Use global resources and networks to extend our reach and support system.   Use culture to educate those at home while preserving it in our project areas.

In our particular case, Mountain to Mountain’s Board needs to understand my vision and modus operandi – ie. my gut check.  I need their structure to build our organization in order to do the hundred of projects queuing up in my line of sight.  I need to be confident in my vision and know that the right people will come to the organization because of that vision.  When I stray into the realm of doing what I think others think I should be doing, I fail.  Trust your gut, it knows whats right even when your head tries to convince it otherwise!  Lesson learned….moving on.

photo by Di Zinno

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