IN THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON: PRAYING FOR YOUR SAFE RETURN, MY FRIEND

Working for a nonprofit organization (“NPO”) gives people an opportunity to make a positive impact. However, identifying the right cause and creating a NPO is a different story, though. Entrepreneur is someone who is willing to launch a new venture and accept full responsibility for running the organization. It will be a rewarding experience if everything goes well as planned. 

NPOs are generally supposed to improve quality of life for others at a community, local, state, national, or even global level. A big difference with a profit corporation, though, is that NPOs are not attached to private or financial gain, but dedicated to public interest or the betterment of society by and large. It means that there is no monetary gain or financial upside for the founders of NPOs. 

Solomon Song (aka Solnamoo Song), a friend of mine from elementary school days, is a flutist by training. He has been featured on various professional music labels and TV shows as a composer and instrumentalist. He is a prolific presenter and inspirational performer at finest musical events and also Christian missionary gatherings around the world. Song has been in Ukraine ever since the Ukraine war began, first, as a musician to comfort kids evacuating from Ukraine at the brink of war at a train station in the Polish border town, but now as a leader of humanitarian relief efforts driving into 220 cities in Ukraine by carrying in relief supplies and transporting out refugees. 

Solomon Song is now traveling to Kherson (Херсон), one of most conflicted areas in Ukraine where he and his crews are fully exposed to life threatening events at any moment. Christmas is a time for family unwrapping gifts and sharing laughter in comfort. However, this winter, Song is in a duty of great responsibility that he has created by himself in compassion for the people in Ukraine going through the most difficult time in their lifetime. He is driving for 10+ hours, unloading heavy boxes in severely cold weather in Ukraine and looking up at the sky with a feeling of unease if there is any sudden attack. Friends and family are in prayer for his safe return and the end of the war in Ukraine. 

Gary Haugen is an attorney and the founder of International Justice Mission (“IJM”). Gary Haugen used to work as a human rights lawyer at the Department of Justice. He left his job and started IJM in his small kitchen along with his 2-3 friends 25 years ago with the vision, but no money, to fight against modern-day slavery. Since early days, IJM has effectively mobilized people and resources and tightly worked with senior leadership of law enforcement and criminal justice in the developing countries to rescue children in sex traffiking and bring justice where there is oppression. 

What Haugen and his team does is a difficult job. IJM has even lost its people as IJM was an easy target from criminals who see IJM’s work inhibits their profit-making opportunities out of law enforcement. IJM is an extraordinary global organization that works with local justice systems to protect the poor who are exposed to violence and oppression. Unbelievably, it could still happen in all countries and any cultural context and children account for almost 30% of those who have been trafficked. Haugen once defined and said “justice is about the use of power and the use of power with moral excellence.” After quitting his decent job at the Department of Justice, he could have gotten into a 6 figure salary job at any top law firm with his pedigree. However, he has no regrets about starting off IJM. He is more dedicated to his conviction than ever.

Now, the war between Russia and Ukraine makes women and children extremely vulnerable to trafficking. We need an immediate and collective response to solve this problem. IJM works on it, too. We don’t know when the war will end but it must end soon. Prolonged negative impact for children who have lost their land and family during the war would be significant. A lot of mothers have been kidnapped and also traded into the sex traffiking chain and kids have no where to go. I am also stuck with sadness and my thoughts go out to all those who have lost their family and hope and all field workers and their families who try to support them.

Conviction does not pay their bill. Like profit-making businesses, NPOs are also facing rising costs. NPOs should stay focused on how they can transfer their conviction and motivation to inspire others. Good nonprofit leaders should inspire their staff and volunteers to act but also find resources to scale up and continue their mission. Sustaining nonprofit causes during economic downturns and finding resilience is a daunting task even for those who are committed. Money is still out there but NPO leaders should turn their mindset for donors as donors won’t bless those NPOs that are not effectively and efficiently running. 

Nonprofit leaders will continue to make an impact during an economic downturn, given that more people would need services and public benefits from NPOs during this difficult time. It is also possible to increase awareness by serving its community in a greater way during a recession. NPO leaders shall prioritize their efforts based on efficacy and exercise caution around their major capital investments, unnecessary staffing, and the cost for fund-raising.

Nonprofit causes are not a nice-to-have. My friend who risks his life on the ground to serve humanitarian efforts once challenged me saying that you wouldn’t even imagine what the war zone would be really like qnd what is really needed there unless you witness it with our own eyes. Oftentimes, it is not about money or supplies. Timely and tactical support that solves the most critical problem during the war is much better than just dumping out overstocks or flowing money into quasi international organizations that have huge overhead expenses, but no direct impact.

We need to grow wonderful nonprofit causes. Though, like I exchanged a short goodbye to my friend in prayer, those committed leaders should survive first. We are getting into a severe winter. We can’t let people down who are directly exposed to life-threatening moments. No matter what the circumstances are, I look forward to my friend’s safe return. Be well, my friend.

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