Transparency & Celebrity: How the Face of Giving is Changing

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lessprit/

What does transparency and celebrity have to do with charity? Have you heard about the $600 billion challenge? Which Canadian Charity is rated the highest among its peers? Read on to find out.

Once upon a time I read a book called “Philanthrocapitalism” by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green. This book opened my eyes to the world of philanthropy and the wealthy people who have taken it upon themselves to make their mark through charity and social assistance on a global scale. “Philanthrocapitalism” includes interviews with such social-conscious celebrities as Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, George Soros, Richard Branson, Angelina Jolie, and Bono. In the past, we have all looked to our governments to tackle and solve social issues, but a new movement is beginning where the more fortunate citizens of this world are using their money to tackle issues such as poverty, climate change, and treatable disease. In June of this year, Fortune Magazine ran a story that is yet another example of celebrities flexing their philanthropic muscles. The story was called “The $600 billion challenge.” According to this article, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett are asking America’s billionaires to pledge to give at least half their net worth to charity, in their lifetimes or at death. To pitch this idea, the Gates’ and Mr. Buffet held a special dinner with some of the most notable billionaires in America, including David Rockefeller and Oprah Winfrey. The face of philanthropy is changing, or at the very least is being challenged, and this, I feel, is cause for great hope.

Philanthrocapitalism” also got me thinking about the need for transparency in the world of non-profit organizations, and in some cases the need to treat non-profits more like a for-profit business in order to run more effectively and efficiently. Now, I can’t even begin to pretend I know much about the world of non-profit, but the area of for-profit business that I specialize in is in looking for ways to make businesses and business processes more streamlined and efficient. How could it be a bad thing to apply this to the non-profit world as well? Especially when so much of their spending capital comes from citizen donations.

I soon started my research and came across two websites – GuideStar and Charity Navigator. I wanted to see how non-profits reported their day-to-day activities and annual successes. The problem was that both these websites are American-based, and thus not 100% relevant to a Canadian. Because of this I had a short-lived dream of building my own website that would provide this information for Canadians, but with my aforementioned lack of knowledge in the non-profit area, I really had no clue where to start. This is why I was so excited when I saw in this summer’s issue of MoneySense magazine that they had actually taken the time to rate our Canadian Charities. To see this full article, buy a copy of MoneySense magazine today, or click here to see the free online article.

In this article, MoneySense has rated the Top 100 charities operating in Canada by the following criteria – Overall Charity Efficiency (the percentage of charity expenditures that go to program costs, rather than overhead and fundraising costs), Fundraising Efficiency, Governance and Transparency, and Reserve Fund Size. While this approach can be controversial, it again highlights how transparency is needed in all areas of business and charity. Without it, your hard-earned dollars may not be making as much of a difference as you would like to see when donated to your favourite charity. I think it is great that MoneySense has taken the time to put this list together, and at the very least it has people talking about philanthropy and the pros and cons of giving to certain organizations (for proof, just visit the comments section of the MoneySense article shared above).

In conclusion, my point is this – we all have a responsibility to make this world a better place than how we found it. One of the many ways to do this is by donating money, no matter how big or small the donation. This is what makes it all the more exciting to come across articles like the one in MoneySense this issue. It is also exciting to learn more through books, blogs, and web tools that help make our decisions of who and what cause to donate to all the more educated and impacting. I have gathered several resources below for you to check out if you are interested in learning more.

Books
Philanthrocapitalism by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green
Women and Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World by Sondra Shaw-Hardy, Martha A. Taylor, Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

Articles
Nonprofits and the $100 Billion Opportunity
The $600 billion challenge
Warren Buffett gives it away

Websites
Me to We
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
MoneySense

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2 comments to Transparency & Celebrity: How the Face of Giving is Changing

  • Jay

    I know trying to contribute to a cause can be hard for people who can’t relate to the problem/issue. But remember the window, thorough which you give is where you will receive. Thanks for sharing this list LTI!

  • Live To Inspire

    Thanks for the comment, Jay! I agree that it is hard to attach oneself to a cause if you haven’t experienced it or witnessed it yourself. Growing up in suburban Calgary, I often find that I can’t relate to the poverty and suffering that is occurring around the world, or even in my own backyard. I think for me the key is realizing how lucky I am to have my good health and so many opportunities, and to realize that by even giving just a little bit of my good fortune I can make a difference for someone else.

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