Author: Peter Cantelon, Executive Director
A little while ago I was watching a TED Talk by philanthropy advisor Jasmijn Melse, author of “Your Guide through the Charity Jungle” and it really spoke to me and I thought it might speak to you.
How do I create more impact with my legacy? How do I ensure a lasting, positive change?
During her time as a philanthropy consultant Melse has learned many things but two things have stood out for her – we do not necessarily donate to the causes we care most about and we don’t know where to start looking for the right charities.
“We act like Santa Claus handing out gifts at random simply because somebody asked us to,” she said about the typical donor strategy.
She went on to note that this is not how we act when deciding on making purchases/investments for ourselves. Using the example of purchasing a new phone she related how most people will do endless research and look for the best deals online etc.
When giving donations people will often give blindly without further thinking or research.
“We cross our fingers that it will do some good,” she said. “Isn’t that strange?”
One of the reasons many people approach charity this way is because they think their small donation does not amount to much and so doesn’t warrant a great deal of thought or effort in the decision making process.
However she noted that more than 80 percent of Dutch households give around 300 euros per year. Out of the 5.7 billion euros donated annually in the Netherlands the majority is actually given by individuals (2.5 billion), not companies (2 billion) and funds (1 billion).
Despite being the biggest segment of the donor pie, individuals do not treat their philanthropy the way smart philanthropists do and Melse believes this absolutely needs to change.
“Everyone talks about the need to give more,” said Melse, “but what we should be doing is making better use of what’s already there.”
Melse suggests the following:
- Make a plan: Switch from reactive to proactive giving; stop saying yes to random street fundraisers and spend a month writing down what makes you sad and/or happy as you consider things like the news. Decide what causes you care about.
- Focus on the charity’s results, not just the cause: In Canada there are more than 170,000 charitable organizations. Melse stated that the average donor decides on which charity to give to by making sure the staff salaries and operating costs are low.“That’s the opposite of what we should be doing,” she said. “Thinking that lower overhead costs equal better results is a MASSIVE mistake. It’s much more useful to consider if an approach is effective.” Look at the charity’s outcomes and success rates. Melse said we would not choose the cheapest, least qualified doctors to administer our health care, why would we apply such logic to causes we are most impacted by?
- Consider where your money can do the most good and have the highest yield: For example $1,000 could provide cataract surgery to someone in need overseas or training an individual guide dog can cost more than $80,000 – that’s up to 80 cataract surgeries and 80 people.
The point Melse is making is a powerful one. The most significant donor in the world today are not corporate or fund-based (as important as those are)…it is individuals like you and I. We can transform the charitable sector if we follow a few simple steps and become more intentional with our donations.
For more information about The Jubilee Fund, what we do and how we impact poverty reduction visit www.jubileefund.ca.