It Ain’t What You Give, It’s the Way That You Give It
Caroline Fiennes’ book outlines advice about how to give well. It’s for any donor: with sections on how to give if you have literally no money at all, if you have about £50, if you have £50,000, or if you have £50 million. It’s advice for private donors, corporate foundations, and family foundations. The advice comes with the evidence on which it’s based.
Aristotle said that “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man's power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large, and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man's power nor an easy matter.”
The first step is to get proactive. The single biggest factor in most people’s choice of organisation to support is being asked – a charity approaches them in the street, calls them up, or puts a flyer through the door. There’s no guarantee that the best organisations in the world are the ones which find you, so to be effective you’ll need to go looking for them.
Another early step is to get beyond the problem and onto the solution. Overwhelmingly, charities’ leaflets and letters describe how awful something is. However one should establish whether the charity has a decent solution. And not just any solution, but whether it has the best solution. Perhaps a neighbouring charity would achieve much more. About half of our quest to achieve a lot rather than a little will be about finding great organisations which have powerful solutions to important problems.
The other half of our journey addresses the rest of Aristotle’s comment – about deciding ‘how large, and when, and how’ to give. This is just as influential as the choice of organisation to support. The book outlines how:
- To grow the value of your donations
- To help charities become more effective, more responsive and better able to improve and share their insights with others.
- How donors and foundations sometimes get it wrong, and how to avoid that.
In terms of making a difference, it ain’t what you give: it’s the way that you give it.