My Inner Voice Can’t Stop Comparing

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Traveling makes you learn and question. Whenever I am outside of Turkey, I can’t stop myself comparing just everything and anything: the way people greet each other, the width of sidewalks, the weather, etc. but the things I compare the most are related to my work.

The United States and Turkey are completely different when it comes to the nonprofit sector. The conditions that created and expanded the nonprofit sector in the U.S. have been either non-existent, inconsistent or immature in Turkey.

Let’s start with the terminology. Firstly, we do not use the term “nonprofit”; we use “civil society organization” or “non-governmental organization” instead. Secondly, we do not use the term “sector”, we use words such as area, arena, and field. Why? While the nonprofit sector is not so different from private sector in the U.S. in terms of professionalism and organizational structures, it is very much detached in Turkey and nonprofit organizations avoid using any term that will associate them with the for-profit sector such as “sector”, “client” and “marketing”. The Turkish “nonprofit sector” has its own terminology.

According to the Charities Aid Foundation’s (CAF) Global Giving Index 2013, the U.S. ranks first, and Turkey ranks 128th out of 135 countries.*

CAF 2013 Ranking Helping a stranger Donating money to charity Volunteering time
United States of America 1 77% 62% 45%
Turkey 128 34% 13% 5%

Even that small chart above says a lot about the significant difference between two countries but here are some other points that I have observed:

  • Although U.S. society is portrayed as very individualistic and pragmatic in the media in my country, the results indicates that Americans are much more eager to help others. In my opinion, the gap in volunteering and donations can be explained by the size and accessibility of the sectors. For example, there are not as many organizations in Turkey as U.S. who asks individual donations or provide volunteering opportunities. In other words, the lack of supply due to low operational capacity and resources explains the lack of demand. The individual giving to nonprofits is lower in Turkey but people tend to give their neighbors, relatives, etc. informally.
  • In both countries, religious giving is the common type of giving. It is the largest share of the charitable giving with 32% in the U.S.** and 36% in Turkey. ***
  • Barriers to freedom of assembly and freedom of thought are a major challenge for the development of the nonprofit sector in Turkey. The restrictions related to fundraising is an important obstacle for the nonprofits in Turkey in the lack of enabling tax system.
  • The small sized nonprofit organizations face with similar difficulties in both countries: They can not fundraise because they do not have resources to invest in fundraising. Or they can not have resources because they do not fundraise.
  • It also surprised me to see so much media coverage about corruption in the nonprofit sector in the U.S. despite the fact that there are many tools of accountability and transparency.

As you can understand, my inner voice does not just compare but also keeps asking why. I try to understand the similarities and differences because the more I analyze, the more it is likely for me to find ways for improvement and development.

by Derya Kaya

Edited by Sophia Mayberry

* https://www.cafonline.org/PDF/WorldGivingIndex2013_1374AWEB.pdf
**http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/news/article/giving-usa-2013#sthash.BWKpg3OT.dpuf
***http://www.tusev.org.tr/userfiles/image/the%20landscape%20of%20philanthropy%20and%20civil%20society%20in%20turkey%20key%20findings%20reflections%20and%20recommenda.pdf