As philanthropists/donors/funders, we spend so much time thinking about how to maximize social benefit through our activities, that often we lose sight of the personal benefits that we experience from these endeavors.
We disagree. Consider the current state of the nonprofit sector.
- We have practically no information about charities’ effects on the people they serve.
- Donor misinformation is rampant. Failure to disclose basic facts sets off no one’s alarm bells even coming from the world’s biggest charities.
- Charities aggressively expand programs with great stories but questionable track records. (Three examples recently posted here: Village Phone, agriculture aid and microfinance).
- Programs with the catchiest stories get funded over the ones most likely to actually help people (more on this in the future, but for now see water vs. handwashing).
- Donors who actually want to help people as much as they can are so underserved, and so frustrated, that they do things like quitting their jobs to spend their time digging up information and giving to the Gates Foundation, which asks them not to give to it.
Bottom line: giving today is all about the giver. The sector revolves around telling donors great stories, while charities’ actual impact is unexamined and essentially irrelevant.
We do believe that the benefits of giving for the giver are important, particularly from a fundraising perspective, but we think the current level of attention to them is out of control.