August 18, 2017
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, many well-intentioned folks are exploring ways to make an impactful donation that will provide shelter, food and comfort to those in need. If you find yourself wanting to pitch in, I hope you find the below advice encouraging, if not eye-opening.
There are few moments in my life when I’ve found my fundamental belief system turned completely upside down. In 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Pallotta in Milwaukee, only a few months after his radical TED talk “The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong.” (If you haven’t seen it, stop what you’re doing and watch below.)
I’d heard about Pallotta’s talk, but it wasn’t until I was in the same room with him that his message really hit me: I judged nonprofits, including the one I was running, completely wrong my entire life.
Pallotta called out the double standard that drives our broken relationship with charities: Too many nonprofits are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done. Pallotta laid out five ways in which nonprofits are not only misunderstood, but discriminated against in their mission to help people. Here’s a quick paraphrase:
From my experience, nonprofits and their staff are the definition of hustle. They make do with less. They always find a way. But I like to imagine a world where these organizations are not only allowed but encouraged to invest in essential infrastructure like top talent, fundraising and advertising, putting them on an equal playing field with their for-profit counterparts.
If you’re considering contributing to a hurricane-relief organization, or any other group, here are some suggested evaluation criteria:
As you evaluate your own charitable giving, I hope Dan Pallotta’s insights (and a few of my own) give you the perspective to have confidence in your investment. The world could use some more good and I think we’re all up for the challenge.