Social Capital: Is Palms Worth the Ask?

Recently we came across a service that could be engaged, at some cost, to assist in providing health advice to Palms generally, as well as to volunteers prior to departure.  My remark that we already have such a service prompted someone else to suggest that paying for the service would mean not having to rely on social capital.  The person was unfamiliar with Palms’ operations and the time did not seem right to discuss the question of why we would not use the social capital put at our disposal.

Returned Palms’ health professionals, who intimately understand the circumstances of volunteer placements overseas, always seem willing to assist departing volunteers to know how to manage tropical and other health issues.  Many others also willingly give so much in-kind assistance to Palms.  But the suggestion has me puzzled.  Is their assistance seen as inadequate?  Perhaps the suggestion indicates a lack of certainty in our reserves of social capital?  It does not have the clarity of money in the bank.

Perhaps the suggestion was made out of a concern for Palms’ self-esteem or pride. Asking for help might look too needy.  Asking for voluntary help can be awkward and it is certainly hard to ask for monetary donations.  Despite great feedback about staff achievements, and a clear understanding that a core body of paid staff are required to take responsibility for operational management, reminding supporters of the costs to be covered could look like we are just looking after ourselves.

A contribution to the social capital of an organisation generally occurs when the service or experience it provides is meaningful or inspiring.  The service may, or not, already be paid for with money.  Even if it has been, the contributor to social capital desires to make a further contribution to the continuing operation of the organisation.  In all likelihood this is because they see that it contributes to a greater social good.

Palms earns no surplus from the sale of goods or services, so a deep well of social capital, realised in donations of expertise, time or money, is needed.  Even if we receive government funding such donations will still be needed to meet the call of the many communities seeking lasting relief from poverty via Palms’ volunteers.  Many prefer Palms’ model.  One needs all contributors to Palms’ social capital to continue to be inspired in a similar way by the vision that underpins our mission.

Many make in-kind contributions and beginning in this edition of Palms Post we will profile such individuals.  Unfortunately financial donations are well down forcing us now to spend reserves to cover all that is not provided by voluntary contributions of expertise and time.  Clearly dependence on financial reserves is limited.  Perhaps the profiles of those contributing time and expertise will inspire potential financial donors to realise how a relatively few dollars supports an enormous output by so many.

As I’ve indicated, asking for money is difficult, but there are essential payments to cover.  As we approach the 50th year of the Palms volunteer program I believe the time has come to act on Fr. Cyril Hally’s suggestion of 10 years ago, to establish a Palms Foundation.  A Foundation will enable Palms to be more certain of the funds generated by our social capital and therefore proceed with greater certainty to prepare and send volunteers for the two-year assignments preferred by the host communities.

It is clear that in the next 50 years the world will still need to have the example of Palms’ vision to achieve a more just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful planet.  To take it there I ask those who can stretch to it, to match our best individual donor who has been giving $50,000 per annum for the last five years.

A one off $50,000 from 10 donors will assist Palms to cover the fixed costs of recruitment and administration for up to 10 years.  It represents $1,000 for each year of Palms’ existence.  If that stretches you too far, perhaps it can be left as a bequest, or you can be one of 100 donors to give $5,000, or just $100 for each year of Palms’ work.

If you don’t have such an amount personally, please help spread the word of Palms’ great work and set a target amount to raise in your community.  Yes it is hard to ask, but the alternative is to deny the worth of Palms’ vision, mission and values in our world.  The Palms office can assist to facilitate and resource community awareness efforts.  Please do ask.