Like millions of viewers on Sunday, I enjoyed watching a great football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Today, though, I am disappointed in the NFL and felt compelled to write about it. Saundra, a wonderful international development aid blogger at Good Intentions are Not Enough recently shared her commentary on a partnership between the NFL and World Vision.
World Vision is one of the largest and most respected Christian nonprofits in the world. I have many friends who have worked and still work for this organization. Overall, I believe they do good work and I commend them for their significant track record in international development. It is because of this deep respect for the organization that I was surprised to see that they highlighted a generous donation from the NFL totaling $2 million dollars in value for unsellable merchandise that mislabels the Steelers as the Super Bowl XLV Champions. World Vision claims we now have 100,000 reasons to love the Super Bowl .
More accomplished writers and thinkers, like Saundra and Wanderlust have blogged about their concerns that this partnership raises. I want to echo their main points and encourage World Vision to use their respected platform to advocate for better stewardship of resources and for local sourcing of production. World Vision is a multi-billion dollar nonprofit organization with tremendously talented and creative workers. I believe they can think more creatively (and, indeed, Biblically) to find better ways to partner with organizations like the NFL.
Perhaps an agreement could be reached for the NFL to purchase their shirts from workers (who are trained by World Vision) in the countries where eventually the unusable merchandise gets returned. If the unused goods were returned to the companies that originally produced them (perhaps for a 10 percent credit for next year’s order) and those companies were then able to re-sell those goods in their local markets and keep half of the profits while giving half to World Vision, everyone would seem to win. My guess is that entrepreneurial businesspeople in those countries would find a way to make the merchandise more functional for their communities if they had more skin in the game. And, perhaps the NFL might not over-order as many goods if they treated this transaction as a business decision and not a charitable tax write-off.
Nonprofit organizations, particularly those working towards alleviating deep poverty, must tread carefully in the globalized community we are now in to avoid doing more harm than good. World Vision and the NFL have an opportunity to utilize their incredible voices and deep resources to support more well-crafted trade rather than celebrating misguided aid. My prayer is that they have the courage to do so.