It’s much easier to convince your friends to buy you a drink at the bar than it is to get them to donate the same amount to charity. Why is that?
What is even more peculiar is for a lot of people, the act of charity is often associated with an occasion. A walk, a triathlon, a charity ball, a marathon…it’s as if people need a reminder that there are those who are in need, those who are suffering from terrible disease, that the rainforest and the ocean are dying. Hey! Incase you forgot, you live in an interconnected world, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Oh by the way, today is a great day to do something about it. Will you please considered dropping those lint covered quarters in the bucket?!
In Dan Pallotta’s fantastic TED Talk, he breaks down the hypocritical ways in which we view for profit business vesus not-for-profit. By holding charities, philanthropies and NGOs to a different set of operation-compensation-fundraising standards, Pallotta argues that we adversely affect the ways these organization are able to solve some of our biggest social-economical-environmental-medical crisis.
Pallotta believe that if non-for-profit entities are given the same amount of time to grow (Amazon did not turn a profit for 6 years), encouraged to spend on marketing and advertising as all for-profit companies do (GM spend $4.2 Billion in advertising last year), have the same access to risk capital to promote growth and innovation, and for the those who work in the sector be compensated and incentivize the same way as their for-profit counter parts are, then perhaps real innovation and change could happen.
I do not believe our friends and colleagues are pro-povety. I honestly don’t believe they think that it’s okay 783 million people do not have access to clean water.
I believe we are reluctant to give because we are not convinced the giving is actually helping and what little is done is simply a band-aid on a massive wound. Charitable donations often feel like it goes into a giant black hole with zero gravity and zero accountability.
Except. Doing nothing is not acceptable.
We have our next adventure plotted, The Rickshaw Run. There is an occasion to do some good (incase you need one). Now…comes the real question, which charity should we donate to? Which of the thousands of problems that challenges our global world should our effort support? After much consideration, we’ve selected a charity whose operation methodologies address the common concerns regarding charitable giving and we believe strongly in the work they are doing.
charity:water, founded by Scott Harrison in 2006, is our charity of choice. Sherry and I have pledged to raise $15,000 for charity:water with The Rickshaw Run.
Scott Harrison is a charismatic speaker and he tells a very engaging story on how he went from a NYC nightclub promoter to spending 2-years on the Mercy ship to starting a charity aimed to end the water crisis. Unlike other charities, charity:water runs on the 100% model. 100% of all public donations (yes, that would includes your generous gift) goes to fund water projects in one of the 20 countries they work in. All operational costs for the charity are raised privately from their 200 private backers. There are GPS coordinates for each of their water projects and the donors get a full report on the project in 15-18 months after, both accountable and transparent. charity:water doesn’t actually do a lot of the field work themselves. They identify local partners with excellent track records and fund their work in the filed, making it both scalable and respectful to local NGOs who have a history and expertise in the area.
As a creative director and a brand consultant, I deeply admire charity:water’s marketing. Every piece of the creative they produce is top notch, engaging and forward thinking. They’ve done a tremendous job in brand building.
Have Scott Harrison and charity:water solved all the problems and concerns NGOs often find themselves entangled with from donors and critics? Not at all. There is no shortage of critiques on their efforts; here is one I found posted on TruthOut.org. Anne Elizabeth Moore put charity:water and their projects under a microscope, a level of scrutiny we’ve come to expect when examining the effectiveness of NGOs and it further proves Pallotta’s argument of two different standards. No one is has a problem with what top executives are paid but the idea of the combined salary for three C-Level executives totaling half-million seems outrageous. Work is work. It takes a lot of work to even attempt to solve the global water crisis, just as it is a lot of work to manufacture-market-distribute box macaroni and cheese.
Did I just persuade you into giving and then talk you out of it? Maybe. I hope not.
This is what I believe…there are no perfect solution. All we can do is try and try our best. Charities and NGOs should be allowed to fail and fail again like the best of our for-profit companies, both privately and publicly, and keep on trying until the poverty is eradicated and there is a clean water for all. There are no one singular solutions and there is never the perfect time to give. Give often and give generously. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction — the spirit of generosity and compassion is never wasted or in vain.