The Price of a Life Lived Well

Profit is usually the best indicator of success in the business world. Stakeholders and investors need to see what the return on investment is in order to determine whether or not the business is profitable. Apple® reported profits of approximately $18 billion in the last three months of 2014. This was a record high. Successful? The number of zeros speak for themselves!

In the NGO/charity world measuring success can be much more challenging. Often times these organisations deal in a currency that is not recognised by SARS or listed on the JSE: human lives. Measuring success must then look a bit different.

What is the monetary value of a human life? It might sound callous but various industries actually assign a rand and cent value to one human life. Health care must be cost effective; in other words, the cost of treatment should not be more than the life it aims to support. Risk analysis also puts a price on a human head. If a human life is worth x Rands, how much spending can government justify on disaster prevention to keep people safe? Insurance, environmental impact assessments, economics – all put a price on life. The amount is usually calculated by looking at various factors such as gross earnings, taxes, consumption in terms of economic development, age and gender.

If a human life has a monetary value can we then measure the return on investment in a child who has been mentored?

A large-scale research study1 of a well-known mentorship programme in the USA calculated the return on investment of mentorship to show the financial benefit to society. Researchers compared the lives of 500 individuals who were beneficiaries of the Big Brother Big Sister Mentorship Programme against a control group from comparable socio-economic backgrounds who were not mentored as children.

The study found that throughout their working lives former mentees earned on average $315,000 more than those in the control group. Each former mentee would generate an average of $32,154 in additional tax revenue; $49,819 in increased buying power; $5,856 in additional volunteer work and $890 in donations to charities. It costs approximately $5000 dollars for one child to remain in the mentorship programme and the social return on investment is between $18 and $23 dollars for every dollar invested in the programme. This clearly demonstrates a strong economic argument for mentorship.

Bright Stars currently has 83 children who are being actively mentored. It costs us R 4 000 per child for one year of mentorship. This cost ensures that sufficient mentors are recruited, properly trained, thoroughly screened, and carefully matched with a child whose needs can be satisfied by that particular mentors strengths. Every mentorship relationship is monitored and evaluated and measured for relationship quality.

For your R 4 000 what does success look like?

A child who is able to love themselves, see themselves as valuable to society, plan for the future, and impart love to others. And so the cycle of poverty is broken and the cycle of love begins.

To donate, please email us on for banking details or debit order forms.


  1. Mentoring pays off in hard dollars. Website accessed 11-06-2015

By Irene Schoeman, Regional Coordinator – Bright Stars Gauteng

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