Learning from Giving

imgres-2There is a lot of philanthropic dollars that go down a big black hole.  Few people people talk about that.  Many people give to an organization of their choice without knowing exactly how the money is spent. Few people really know much is going to the overhead of the organization and how much is actually going towards the mission.  There are some non-profit groups who raise tremendous amounts of money each year and I wonder why we don’t see a bigger impact from those dollars.  Many of these types of questions don’t get raised.  Many don’t discussed lessons learned with philanthropic efforts.

The millennials care deeply about social impact.  They want to know that they are making an impact at work, in what they buy and it is part of how they live their lives.  Catch-A-Fire is a company that I have been invested in for years and Rachael Chong has been talking about this from the day I met her.  Her organization is making a difference for corporate America by allowing their employees to give back their knowledge and time to non-profits which is a win win for both sides.  Employees feel good and the impact is felt on the other side.  Catch-A-Fire is making a skills based match in short-term projects.

I heard this the other day and it really make me think about how you have to understand the impact that your dollars are making.  For instance every year tons of used clothes are shipped third world countries.  This has been going on forever.  Those clothes take away the ability of someone who is making clothes locally to have a business. We need to be recycling our clothing which is one of the reasons I invested in Evrnu.   Toms Shoes learned from that too.  They were making shoes in China and shipping them to people who needed shoes around the globe but that took jobs away from locals.  So Toms shoes then moved their factories into the communities that they were providing shoes for.  A win win.

The importance of sharing what works and what doesn’t is important.  We know that when we give women micro-loans that they are paid back makes an impact in their communities.  They can then feed their families and send their kids to school.

As data it being amassed on every topic to help make better decisions we should be looking into sharing the data around the non-profit sector.  What works, what doesn’t and how can our philanthropic dollars make a better impact on each organizations mission.

The next generation of philanthropic givers are going to want to see much more than data.  They are going to want to see how organizations can figure out sustainability to feed the mission.  I have seen more than my share of development meetings where people sit around the table ticking off the same group of mega-donors to go after.  The millennials will eventually take over that reign from either creating their own wealth to give back or inherit it from their families.  Social responsibility is part of their DNA and so is sustainability.

I challenge non-profit organizations and particularly foundations to push on new ways to operate.  The opportunities around that in a technology driven world can be achieved with creativity.  I am not saying that all organizations will become sustainable but certainly a new generation of thinking could go a very long way.