Tad DeHaven

Unlike government bureaucracies and many top-heavy private charities, Convoy of Hope applies a uniquely results-oriented approach to serving people. You won’t find bloated salaries or patronage jobs at Convoy of Hope, nor will you find tony offices in New York or Los Angeles like so many nonprofits. In fact, the organization regularly spends only about 10% of its budget on overhead (a very low ratio in the nonprofit world), while employing a small staff of approximately 85. Watchdog group Charity Navigator consistently gives Convoy of Hope high marks for both its financial acumen and transparency.

Convoy of Hope also stretches its resources by developing strategic partnerships with private sector corporations, many of which provide in-kind donations of goods or services. This allows Convoy of Hope to offer a win-win proposition to prospective corporate donors: companies benefit from donating needed goods or services already in their inventory or area of expertise, while Convoy of Hope benefits from receiving the supplies and services it needs without paying retail prices. Its corporate donors—including Coca Cola; Nestle; Proctor & Gamble; Nestle; Georgia Pacific; Cargill; Del Monte; and FedEx—donate everything from building supplies to bottled water to toiletries. These partnerships with successful private companies demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset that enables Convoy of Hope to help more people with less overhead.

Its massive distribution center and headquarters are located strategically in Missouri, where its fleet of trucks can dispatch quickly anywhere in America. It also operates six international distribution centers for logistical efficiency. By contrast, many government agencies purposely locate offices and facilities in different states at the clear expense of efficiency, solely to curry funding support from as many members of Congress and Senators as possible.

A small charity that I’m involved with, The Purple Feet Foundation, is about to celebrate its third year of helping inner-city six-graders think big about their futures in order to avoid succumbing to the social pathologies that are prevalent in their communities. We do not seek—nor do we accept—money from government, which sets a good example for children who have been raised in an environment where government programs are omnipresent. Our overhead is kept to a minimum because, unlike government programs, we must compete for donations (donors obviously don’t want their voluntary contributions blown on excess). Sure, there are wasteful charities out there. But the market for charitable donations has a built-in disciplining mechanism. In contrast, when a government program is exposed for wasting money, the consequence is usually nothing more than a congressional hearing in which pontificating politicians make empty promises to “protect the taxpayers.”

Tad DeHaven

Tad DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Previously he was a deputy director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget. DeHaven also worked as a budget policy advisor to Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK).