I think about effective giving, I go to the root of the
word effective. Effect means to bring about a specific
outcome of one kind or another. From our perspective at
the Global Fund, our role as donor is to effect a certain
outcome: women's ability to have a voice and to increase
choice in their lives. Our definition of whether our giving
is effective or not comes out of that understanding.
Giving effectively is all
about intentionality. It's very important to be clear
and specific about what you're trying to effect. When
you're not really clear, the actual effect is hard to
measure. If you thought, for example, that the primary
mission of the Global Fund is to decrease infant mortality,
you might conclude that most of our programs are not effective.
But once you understand what we're trying to do, you would
probably think we are very effective. Women's groups in
150 countries get ongoing support, and all our activities
help make sure women's voices will be heard.
concept of giving effectively comes out of a corporate
mentality that nonprofits feel we have to fit into these
days. Donors ask us, "What are the numbers? How many
women have more choice? Can you see and measure real outcomes?"
When you're dealing with the kinds of complex social issues
that we are, like extreme poverty, the outcomes are not
easily defined. You can't just count how many people came
to a soup kitchen. While it's important to care whether
your giving is effective, it's as important to be concerned
with the way in which you give. Are you giving with respect
and trust? It's the process of giving that empowers both
the giver and receiver.
From a grantee perspective,
most giving that is trying to be effective comes with
strings attached. Donors think they can somehow control
the outcomes. They give project-specific funding, or money
for this many pencils and papers, but not lights or electricity.
Grantee organizations, however, understand how important
general operating support or flexible funds are. In general,
as donors, we don't take a hard look at ourselves and
have enough conversation about effective giving. The less
we base our giving on trusting and respecting our grantees
to do what they do, the more we put restrictions on our
funds. But there is a fine line between accountability
and useless bureaucracy.
must start from a premise of some humility. Just because
we're in a position of giving away money doesn't somehow
endow us with mystical knowledge. We have a culture of
awe around who has the money. Grantees find it hard to
challenge the donors. We need to acknowledge the power
dynamic there. Most grantees would love to see more flexible
funding; most donors are hesitant. They see it as losing
control over their resources and as losing an opportunity
to effect a specific outcome they're looking for. The
new entrepreneur donors want to be hands-on. That's great,
but then you need to be willing to say, "I'm going
to set up a nonprofit and direct it and put money into
it"-as opposed to "I'm going to make you dance
to a different tune."
most nonprofits, we do not categorize our donors by level
of giving. In our annual report, all our supporters are
part of a network that cares deeply about what we support;
they are all reaching to the edge of their capacity. We
don't list categories of givers, because we believe very
deeply that philanthropy is not just a privilege of the
wealthy, but an opportunity for us all to participate
in social change. Anyone who cares can make a difference,
not just by their activism, but also through their philanthropy.
A little girl who sends us $25 from her bat mitzvah check
is making as much of a stretch as someone who sends us
$25,000. If each donor is giving to the maximum of his
or her capacity in order to change something he or she
believes in, that is effective. It creates a constituency
of informed and caring advocates for change.
and Multiplying the Giving
few years ago we made a grant to a woman in Uzbekistan who was starting a health
clinic. Last year the Goldman Foundation honored her with
a $125,000 award. The next day, out of her award check
she made a $5000 donation to the Global Fund, when she
desperately needed it herself. We asked her why and she
said, "You gave me money when no one else would.
There are a hundred others like me who need a start right
now." That's effective giving. It models giving for
a much broader constituency. The Global Fund mantra is,
"To give is as important as to receive. To receive
is as important as to give. All those who give also receive."
To us, effective giving is modeling and extending the
giving, so it keeps multiplying. You don't want to limit
it to a few who have the right or opportunity or the duty
to give. The women we fund are themselves so generous
--from a conversation with
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