Monday, December 1, 2008

Dollars & Sense

Who would have thought that in a time of looming financial crisis, your ability to make a PERSONAL IMPACT ON THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET is greater than ever? Seem far-fetched?

The simple truth is this... some methods of giving yield greater results than others. You have ALWAYS possessed the power to shape history. The difference is that now, you are really listening and growing more concerned about what your contributions are actually accomplishing.

It's all about traction.

While every charitable cause has merit, there are certainly some that promise a greater return on your investment than others. When choosing a cause to get behind, it is critical that you weigh the long-term implications of your investment. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

- How many lives am I impacting?
Does your donation help a person, a community, or a nation? One person CAN make a difference... and that one person is YOU. Whenever possible, make the biggest impact by giving toward causes that can ignite entire communities or nations into escalated growth.
- Is my donation adding momentum?
Some charities get stuck addressing the same issue over and over. Examine whether your dollars are merely treating a symptom or addressing the bigger problem. Why give a man a fish when your dollars can teach an entire village to fish?
- Is the cause critical or idealistic?
When money is tight, we need to avoid "painting the trim" and focus on "putting out fires." Alleviating human suffering should be high on that list. Fundamentally, this requires us to get past the "feel good" causes and look more deeply at the "live good" causes. In some cases, the difference is subtle, but in every case the implications are profound.
- Does the objective require patience?
Believe it or not, there really are no quick fixes. Any group that promises a speedy return on your investment is selling you snake oil. In reality, the biggest issues (most important causes) require the greatest fortitude (patience) and will deliver the best result (real and lasting change).
- Is education a primary objective?
I don't care what the cause is, if good education is not a part of the initiative, then it has no legs. One of the leading causes of all of the world's problems is a lack of quality education. When education is offered, progress is possible. Any organization that promises progress without education is creating a constituency of dependents and ultimately, ripping you off.
- Is the success measurable?
How has the charity made a difference? If they offered education, what are their graduates doing? In many situations, educational initiatives are token at best, offering no hope for advancement once the student has matriculated. If it is a new organization (like us), do they promise some form of measurable result?

Incidentally, we do.
- Are questions and feedback allowed?
When you have a question, does the organization respond? Do they seem open and honest or do you feel like they are hiding something? Basic rules of interpersonal engagement should apply. You can safely assume that they have good intentions, after all, it takes a LOT of work to give birth to a charitable cause. At the same time, good intentions are not enough. If your reasonable questions elicit a negative response, then be careful. Likewise, if the organization repeatedly fails to ask for your input, then they may only think of you as an ATM and not a critical part of the team, and make no mistake, YOU ARE A CRITICAL PART OF THE TEAM.
- Are they cooperating?
I have always said that individuals can create ordinary results but it takes a group effort to create EXTRA-ordinary results. I will take this belief to my grave. It is, in fact, the very reason that I started HANDS Across Haiti. In places where "putting out fires" is needed, no one group has ALL OF THE ANSWERS.


I cannot stress this enough.

Refusal to cooperate is the symptom of a much bigger problem and should immediately send up a red flag. Naturally, you cannot expect an organization to always do everything in cooperation with other groups. Nonetheless, save for a few qualifications, a constant willingness should be present and at least some track record should be easily demonstrable.

Okay, that's all for now.

As you enter into December, you are probably starting to think about ending the tax year wisely. As you do so, please consider how your contributions can best lead to meaningful and lasting change in the world. Now more than ever, it is important that you get the most for your money. I encourage you to look for opportunities to transform communities (or entire countries). In the developing world, the truth is, community change is required for individual sustainability.

I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you to contribute toward our cause. If you don't, however, please do try and make the best decision possible as you plan your charitable giving.

The future of humankind is counting on it.

No comments: