Category Archives: Philanthropy

PRACTICE THE DOING GOOD

In the last few months, I enrolled coincidentally and luckily to two free online courses, given by Coursera‘s top professors. One of them was “Effective Altruism” by Dr. Peter Singer, and the other was “A life of happiness and fulfillment“, by Dr. Raj Raghunathan. Both courses, in this way or another, are dealing with important questions of meaning and significance, and discuss ways to improve what we are doing in our day-to-day life, in order to be better personalities.
I also, somehow, found myself watching with my kids the fabulous, amusing, and lovely movie by Julie Andrews, called “The sound of music“…

As a result of the three, I watched several interviews with Andrews after her voice loss; I bought Singer’s new book “The most good you can do“, and talked to friends about happiness and the ways we ruin our happiness by our own very hands (I still have a bunch of recommended reading to complete in the next 20 years…).
Then, I have discovered a link between all of the ideas, a shiny bright thought came into my mind. In fact, it is not that hard to do good, it is not that impossible to be happy even if we are not that achieving and successful in terms of what we think we should have been achieving so far.

The major point of Singer’s message is the willingness to do good with your money or time. It is not just giving your spare money or time, but doing it wisely and efficiently. Think about what you are planning to give, to whom, why to do it, and what evidence are exist in order to support your choice of giving. According to Singer, giving should be done by everyone who has something spare (time or money), and the leading principle is the choice of the best cause.

Andrew’s message, conveyed in many interviews and talks, is more than inspiring in my opinion. She repeatedly says she enjoys the most of her ability of giving joy and happiness to kids, families, and adults who watch her films and shows. She had a rule to sing only happy songs, never take the negative side, and commit to roles she felt may bring lots of fun and happiness to her audience. Even after the loss of her voice, due to a surgery failure, which was a complete shock to her and the rest of the world, she still found a way to do the best she knows, and started to write children’s books, with great messages of self-acceptance, and finding fun in each of every moment.

Last but not least is Raghunathan’s lessons for a happy life. He insist we can all find happiness in very simple ways, as long as we practice them. He counts several steps to follow (are described here very briefly). First, get rid of our need for superiority (what a burden it is, indeed!); Second, express gratitude to people who made our life better (if you think about it – there are numerous of them); Third, think and write what is happiness for us in a short sentence or very few words (for example: joy, abundance), and what makes us feel happy (for example: giving to others); Forth and trivial – eat, move, and sleep well. Fifth, give to others, as act of generosity. Sharing is caring, etc.; Sixth, and the most important – practice all of the above on a daily basis.

When combining the three inspiring, fascinating, engaging messages, the only question which comes to mind is “Ok. what do I do next?”
The answer is PRACTICE THE GOOD. Practice your thinking of effective giving, and do it. Practice your viewing and common mistakes of happiness, and focus on the bright sides. As a result, you will start to experience a great fulfilling and happy life, and eventually and hopefully these great positive feelings will last and enlighten yours and others’ life.

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4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Donate to Nonprofit Organizations

The world is complicated, there are so many causes to donate money to, and your spare time and / or money to donate are limited. The questions of how to give, to whom, and why, are getting an increasing attention due to the growing needs on the one hand, and a shrinking amount of donated money and time on the other hand.

Nevertheless, the issue of giving has not got enough thinking and discussion so far, in my opinion, although it is only reasonable to assume that ones will want to know what profit their money can generate. Even in terms of the not for profit sector, it is still true and plausible to expect high efficiency, effectiveness, and return on investment.

Therefore, I have developed a simple Four Questions Test in order to assist donors in decision making regarding donating their time or money.

Question # 1:
What does the organization do?
A clear answer is required here. Neither vision nor mission statement are needed here.
The very simple answer is what is done by the organization.
Want three clear examples? Here You Go.

Question # 2:
Is it the most  important cause you can donate to?
The answer to this question is a bit tricky, and requires framing an opinion by asking yourself what is your definition of the best cause(s) to give to. The basic assumption is that you want to help as many as you can, which means you want to make the best out of your investment. Think about it and develop your view. You may find This Inspiring Book helpful. Although the author claims that poverty alleviation should be number one priority for everyone of us, I still find this book very helpful in shaping your mind in regard to finding the cause that close to your preferences of helping others.

 

Philanthropy

Question # 3:
What are the organization’s overhead costs?
Not a fancy question to ask, but you deserve an answer. As a general rule, you may expect no more than 15% overhead costs. More than this percentage, or worse – no information in this regard raise a question mark. A big one. Bear in mind, your money is limited, and you want to generate the higher profit possible. Assuming that – it is your duty to do your research and find out if the overhead costs are within the range. (And a personal note, I do not believe in crazy fundraising costs either, whether they are conveniently calculated out of the overhead costs or not! 20% or more of fundraising costs seem unacceptable to me, because it basically says that you cut 20 cents out of each dollar you give. You can do better with you money for sure.)

Question # 4:
What is the Return on Investment?
This term has countless definitions, but only one bottom line – what is the percentage of the generated profit in the project? Clear answer is required here. How much your dollars worth within the project/organization?! The ratio between investment and its return is very easy to catch. You should ask and get this information from the organization/s you wish to support. Any ratio above 1:1.5 is considered good profit in my opinion, because it is basically reflects 150% profit, and this is a clear indicator of doing good with your money, and making it worth more. The same process you do with your for profit investments applies here as well. (And another personal note here… I do not buy excuses in this issue. Every organization has the duty to measure, evaluate, and research itself on an ongoing basis, and part of it, is getting to know the organization’s services/activities’ impact in terms of dollars.)

Now, take a pen and paper and answer the questions.
If you do not know the answers – research. Do it diligently, because you want the best profit out of your money.
If an organization you consider to support does not provide with the information – ask to get it.
If an organization does not have the information – reconsider your intentions. You will not know where the money goes, what is done, and what is your return, so better to think twice, and research better options within your fields of interest.

Ready to think?! Go ahead and do the best you can.

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Some clarification notes (in response to many emails and comments I have received):

1. Every donor follow their heart. I am not trying to convince anyone to choose any cause which is not their focus of giving. Do what you think is right.

2. Overhead costs is not a synonym of salaries. It includes rent and other costs… and yes in many cases there are too high costs of fundraising. It seems unreasonable to me to spend only 60-50% of donors money on the mission (assuming this mission really happens). However, there are many cases such as a small organization, starting-up a new project, or increasing of fundraising effort in which higher costs are acceptable. I give you food for thoughts, and you do the math.

(….And by the way, let’s phrase it a bit differently please… assuming that it is impossible to have 15% overhead costs and only 30% or so is a relevant expectation, plus every organization that tells you they have less than 30% overhead simply “plays with the numbers”… just makes the problem worse!!! No one wants to show high overhead costs, right?! so if they say they have 40% fundraising costs (or overhead), you may derive the inevitable conclusion – they spend much more than this amount. So, where does donors money go?!)

3. Salaries – I am a big believer of decent salaries, and will never support anyone who thinks that the sector’s workers need to sacrifice themselves because they help others. BUT if you chose to help others do not find excuses why you deserve the largest car and a crazily high 6 figures salary. It is not fair for your donors, and it is not fair for your employees; and it is bad to our world to have people who think they are the only talented people to bless earth, and the world owe them back.

4. Reading the comments I have received proved me something I already new. I am a millennial.  This is it (:

5. Cyber-bullying, even with a fake cover of legitimate discussion, is disgusting and very harmful. Think twice before you shoot someone just because you disagree with them. (By the way the impression about your style of talking to others does not do good to you either… even if my ESL is not perfect, I bet you understand perfectly everything I write. I am also kinda sure my first language level is far better than the first language of many educated and smart commenters).

6. Very nice examples of organizations that use donor’s money efficiently (and there are many more, Find them and support them):
UNICEF
Plan Canada
United Way

7. A great article you may consider to read, and may change your way of thinking.

8. Do not forget why you are here – do good, do good, the your best to do good!

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Not-for-profit BUT yes-for-what?

I am in love with the not-for-profit sector, I switched around 2006 and almost never look back. I love the idea of helping people, doing good to others, support the world, and make my living as a by-product.
However, I must say that I feel a bit worried. While many great things are happening around, the nonprofit sector seems to stay aside and wait. Wait for what?! you do a great job, however you must understand – there is an essential need to measure your performance. Do not get me the wrong way – YOU need it. not your boss, certainly not the funding organization, not your manager, and not your board of directors. You need it, and you deserve to know what works and what not.

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I do believe that not-for-profit is not for profit, but if we are so confident in that – let’s ask: what are you there for? yes, I get you. You are there to help, to support, to facilitate, to give a hope. I agree, I am absolutely with you. However… how do you know that you really help, support, facilitate, etc.?
Let’s get straight to the point – you need to measure. You have to measure your impact, to benchmark between projects, to justify budgets. You cannot just do the “on the surface” stuff like counting and have nice graphs. Because the question: “how many people used our service in the last 12 months?” is a very good question, but what about the impact? what about the help, support, facilitation and so on? The question: “how many people were satisfied from our service?” is a neat question, however does not provide with any insight of your communal impact.

The questions, mistakenly perceived as unimportant, irrelevant, or annoying, are dealing with your impact. This impact can be evidently measured and give you a very clear picture of what works and what not.

Ask yourself – What is the difference between projects? Why project X and not project Y? Why project X must continue? What project holds the highest SROI? What project has got significant impact on your client’s life?

If you do not have answers to these questions – you better start to work on your impact measurement very soon.

The process of impact measurement will be described in my future posts, so stay tuned and feel free to subscribe to the newsletter.

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