12 Warning Signs: Do Charitable “Business Programs” Lead to Independent Living?

Through our experiences, the top question asked by survivors of exploitation and extreme poverty is, “How will I support myself?”

Without meaningful job opportunities, 80% of trafficking victims are likely to be re-trafficked, more than 50% of orphaned youth transitioning out of foster care will live below the poverty level for many years following emancipation, and rural families around the world will struggle to survive, supporting a family of 6 to 8 dependents on as little as $13/month income.

From our experience, we have identified 12 warning signs that indicate a charitable program isn’t built to help its beneficiaries achieve tangible, lasting income results required for independent living. We share them as a reference for you as you evaluate and/or influence giving and service opportunities labeled as “business” or “entrepreneurship” opportunity for people in need: 


  1. Clear as Mud. Unclear or murky language is often used to soften expectations and accountability. Words like empower, sustainable, and impact can be used to conceal an absence of tangible business and income results from programs.
  2. Merry-Go-Round Effect. Repeated donation requests to fund the same “business” programs, for the same people, for the same objectives, year after year. 
  3. Victim Mentality. The focus on continuous giving to victims is reinforced by leaders of the non-profit charity or ministry. No one is leading a mindset shift away from victim and recipient mentality in preparation for the marketplace.
  4. Ministry in A Vacuum. No one from the local business community is at the table. Local business leaders are not invited, included, or consulted in discussions of what may or may not be economically viable for local beneficiaries.
  5. Road to Nowhere. The charitable organization is providing advice and skills training that aren’t marketable in the local economy. Few jobs exist requiring the skills training provided.  
  6. Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. High repayment rates of microloans are assumed to equate to healthy and growing businesses run by healthy borrowers supporting healthy and improving families.    
  7. The Blind Leading the Blind. “Certified” business and entrepreneurship trainers have little to no business experience, especially in the target region or industry. Aspiring entrepreneurs living on thin margins are often advised to take steps in business that would otherwise be deemed ill-advised by truly experienced business professionals.    
  8. Certificates and Plaques Don’t Pay the Bills. Exclusive focus placed on training activities, number of graduates, or businesses “launched.” Short-sighted outlook where “next steps” for graduates are outside the scope of work for trainers and incubators. Certificate-holders encounter no job, no prospects, and no paycheck.
  9. Flying Too High, Too Fast. Trendy business methodologies and jargon take precedence over ensuring that business fundamentals are understood at a basic level for practical application. Proven concepts of canvas, iterations, pivots, and “scaling” are trained for without proper interpretation for audience, culture and setting. 
  10. Island Syndrome. The sponsoring ministry controls every aspect of a business-for-good (i.e. the charity is the investor, lender, supplier, buyer, advisor and employer), rather than involving third parties in one or more of these roles for independence, accountability, and long term viability. 
  11. No Skin in The Game. Beneficiaries who are aspiring entrepreneurs and employees are the only people involved in the program with something personally at risk. They are alone in experiencing the pressures of growing a profitable business or career. Few others involved relate to or share their risk/reward dynamic in play. 
  12. One Trick Pony. Pressure on organizations to train a large number of beneficiaries, and a pride-of-authorship industry culture can prevent collaboration, partnership, integration and creativity which reduces likelihood of success and overall value to target beneficiaries. 


Viable, Inc. exists to create authentic job opportunities for remarkable survivors of exploitation, traumatic events, and extreme poverty. Once stabilized, survivors of abuse, trafficking, addiction, mass atrocities, war, natural disasters, and orphans and widows – all crave opportunity to provide for themselves and any family they may have remaining. 

We believe creating scenarios where people are connected to legitimate jobs and income opportunity is “the last mile” in a beneficiary’s journey out of crisis, poverty (and charitable programs and services). The spirit and intent of our work is to honor the foundational efforts of the saints who serve as caregivers, educators and leaders of survivors throughout the darkest valleys of their crisis and healing journey to date. We are all about completing, not competing.

Our calling is to use our business (and ministry) experience to help place real job and income opportunity within reach for Viable beneficiaries. Likewise, our work brings genuine service and giving opportunities within reach for Viable donors to bless hard-working people in need of a job. So, we invite you to join us to experience a greater return for all involved, to the glory of God.



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