Improving the Way We Think About Philanthropy

Amidst everything that is going on in our personal lives and what is going on at the office, there is no question that many donors, volunteers and charitable organizations themselves have indeed lost sight of what philanthropy means.

By definition, philanthropy is the act to serve others in a way that truly helps their long-term or short-term needs. In order to most effectively aid people around the world, it is necessary that we change our mentality, business models, and most importantly how we approach philanthropy on an intellectual level.

To better serve the needs of people, it is important for charities and philanthropies to alter their business mentality in order to focus on results rather than how many dollars the organization raises. The Foundation Center has numerous lists ranking the top foundations in the United States based on total giving and assets. Contrary to popular belief, this does not necessarily indicate success.

unicefUnfortunately, when money is the main measure of success, the focus tends to shift away from doing actual work; it becomes all about how much is in the bank. This line of thinking perpetuates a cyclical mentality emphasizing what a for profit company would focus on instead of what a non-profit charity or organization should work towards.

Sometimes, many philanthropists today are not thinking through what people really need. Although these individuals do not necessarily intend to misunderstand this important step, assuming what others need help with fundamentally counteracts success.

We make assumptions based on what we believe or “know” to be true. It is clear that intentions do not necessarily help those in need and, more importantly, no amount of money is going to make a difference if it’s not spent in ways that directly meet the needs of the people that we are serving.

Before doing anything, we need to understand something about what we’re doing. If we rush in and haven’t thought through the roots of the problems we want to solve, or the ripple effects of our actions, we inevitably will do the wrong things.

Traditionally, philanthropy has meant giving large sums of money to charitable causes, and philanthropies have existed as entities with specific tax designations, boards of directors, and all kinds of regulations and red tape. Recently, there’s been an increase in more creative forms of philanthropy, which provide some flexibility for how money can be spent.

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