Lesson 2: Ten Things We'd Like to Tell Every New Philanthropist
Lesson #2 - "It is clear this non-profit needs my support more than the other. This non-profit might not survive without my contribution and that other non-profit has plenty of money."
There are certainly times where urgent financial need is the right criteria for making a grant decision. But just as often it is not. When presented with this scenario, consider some questions - why are they in such dire need? Why are they so low on cash? Should I fund organizations based on financial urgency or on positive impact? Sometimes a non-profit might be in that circumstance because of poor cash planning, questionable program effectiveness, or ineffective fund development. The point is not to categorically reject or approve giving to an organization in need, but to take a little time to understand why that is the case.
On the flip side, philanthropists will sometimes shy away from funding successful non-profits with a strong financial position because they don't "need" it as much. But why would we punish successful organizations? Isn't that what we want? Organizations doing great work, with effective programs, and that have the ability to sustain and maintain funding over time.
Lastly, there can be a tendency for philanthropists to fund need instead of impact because one organization's mission is more compelling than another's. We all want to give to what we care deeply about and there is nothing wrong with that. While difficult to measure, at the end of the day the reason to contribute to a non-profit is to get improved academic outcomes, fewer teen pregnancies, a cleaner environment, and other positive changes in our world.
by Paul Shoemaker
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