We work very hard to ensure that each donated dollar is spent prudently, and we strive to maximize the impact of donations on the communities we serve. We take the following measures to help us use money wisely to undertake our mission:
- All schools and individuals that solicit our help must provide financial records and budgets from the past several years. We check for a good history of recordkeeping and evidence of financial responsibility.
- Each soliciting school must complete a written proposal form for our review and demonstrate why the project is necessary, what the impact will be, and what they will provide to complete the project.
- As part of the proposal, the community must show that the title of the land to be improved is owned by the local diocese. This removes the possibility of improving private land, i.e., building classrooms on land the school doesn’t own.
- Project acceptance is based on demonstrated need and the potential impact of our help. For example, research has shown that investments in primary education infrastructure in developing countries is more effective than investments in secondary (high school) education. Thus, all other things being equal, we would choose a project at a primary school over one at a secondary school.
- If a project is accepted, Walter Uolla, head of Salvadoran operations, purchases building supplies and delivers them directly from the school. Absolutely no money changes hands, removing the temptation for impropriety with funds.
- A strict inventory of building supplies is kept and reviewed by TLAU officers, and any unused supplies are returned to The Least Among Us to be used on other projects. At times, these unused supplies can amount to several hundred dollars worth of material.
Remember that 100% of each donation to The Least Among Us is used directly towards capital projects or scholarships. The only exceptions to this rule are 1) when a donation has been explicitly earmarked by the donor to cover operational expenses such as bank fees and 2) the transaction fee incurred for processing an online donation, which is typically 3% of the donated amount. If you are interested in special projects or a named gift, please contact Fr. Pat Keane or John Nelson.
One final note: our only significant expense outside of building materials and scholarship disbursements is the salary and expenses of Walter Uolla, our Salvadoran Operations Manager. Walter is a well-educated native Salvadoran and former school principal who has proven his honesty and devotion to TLAU and its donors through years of hard work. With his cultural insight and business savvy he saves donors a tremendous amount of money. He has transformed our way of completing projects and made us effective in ways that we would not have thought possible. Since Walter works directly on our building projects, we factor in a pro-rated portion of his salary and expenses such as gasoline to deliver building supplies as part of the cost of a project. Fundraising expenses, bank fees, and other administrative expenses (actually any expense that occurs in the United States) are considered an operating expenses. Operating expenses typically amount to less than 5% of our gross expenditures in a given year.