Effective philanthropy

So often when the telephone rings, it is a telemarketer asking for a charitable donation. Whether or not the cause is worthwhile is not all that evident. The question obviously is will that giving do any good?

Is our philanthropic tradition as helpful as we believe? Superficially, our practice seems intact, even now despite the financial crisis.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a rather depressing history of well-intentioned donations really doing very little to diminish society’s problems. The need to give effectively, to maximize the effects of every charitable gift, is likely to become greater as an aftermath of the economic recession on most people.  That, coupled with the rising cost of living, as food and fuel now are taking big bites out of personal disposable incomes, emphasizes the need for due diligence on this subject.

According to Mario Morino, a long-term philanthropist and author of Leap of Reason, spending cuts imposed by the federal and provincial governments will cause a crisis in the social sector. The aftermath of government reductions for welfare will have an impact on every non-profit organization whether or not it receives government funds. That book elaborates on something that shou1d be obvious, the need to deliver beneficial results. We must aspire to improving the world by smart giving.

Despite an improvement in the agricultural sector, rural poverty is a continuing threat to social stability, along with troubled youngsters who lack education and employment.

Writers Thomas Tierney and Joel Fleishman, experts in the field of philanthropy, stated that charity donors are essentially accountable to no one but themselves. They are being tempted by the deluded belief in their own success. What should be set up, these authors argue, is a system that determines the effects of their giving.

Others state that the best course is to engage in political advocacy to change government policy and, of course, to monitor administrative costs. At the Privy Council Office in Ottawa, in effect the agency of the prime minister, there was a lack of policy direction. Yet it was able to agree that goals should be established so that progress can be measured.

Far too many philanthropists and non-profits shy away from setting goals and evaluating developments. As a result they condemn themselves to ineffectiveness. Clearly, that must change to achieve the collective impact of giving.



Bruce Whitestone