What Is Good Giving?

Emma Turner, Head of Client Philanthropy, Barclays explores the nature of good giving.  It’s fair to say that simply ‘writing a cheque’ and letting your chosen charitable organisation distribute your donation has become a somewhat outdated model, so what is successful ‘giving’?

As donors increasingly seek measures to evaluate the success and impact of their giving I wanted to explore ways of Ensuring Success.

So what is ‘successful’ giving?

The dictionary says ‘having the intended result’ which is a good way to look at this. However this can mean very different things to different people depending on how involved they want to be in their own giving journey.

Charitable giving should be a two way relationship between the donor and the charity. Therefore it is increasingly important that a charity is accountable to its donors for how they are spending their money, and perhaps more importantly, what is it achieving?

This involves you getting to know them and, if necessary, asking them questions to satisfy yourself that they do what they say on the tin and are robust in their day to day business.

Spending time on the selection process at the beginning should help avoid unpleasant surprises down the road and will also give you a good steer towards what level of involvement you want in order to ensure that your giving is successful and fulfilling.

While assessing how closely a charity’s mission and strategy is aligned to your own goals, it is only one of many aspects to consider. You may also want to ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Is the vision and mission of the charity really clear, and do outcomes remain aligned to that mission?
  • Is the culture results oriented, and how engaged are the staff with the charity’s purpose of achieving sustainable change?
  • What evidence can be provided of results and impact – whether it is anecdotal or ‘soft’ evidence, or data collected through quantitative analysis?
  • How solid are the charity’s finances, does it comply with statutory and financial reporting requirements and are its funding sources diverse?
  • What is the plan for growth or development and does the leadership in place have to expertise to achieve those goals?
  • How does it typically report back to donors?

The list is by no means complete and should be treated as a starting point.

Some experts recommend that once you have ran through your preliminary checklist and have created a shortlist of possible organisations, making visits to charities can give you a good insight into their culture and the ways in which they work.

Victoria Hornby advises that, “you should assess charities in much the same way that you would if you were considering doing business with someone, or asking them to supply you with a service. Don’t be afraid to ask one of their senior staff (or the CEO in the case of a small charity) to tell you about their organisation, and to explain to you why its work matters. Also, see if you are inspired by them and if the chemistry between you is good.”

Occasionally of course you may encounter challenges with some of the charities you have funded or develop worries that their operations or finances might not be robust. So below we have noted some of the common warning signs to watch for:

  • There is a lack of straight-forward, open communication with you.
  • Constant leadership or staff changes are occurring; or the charity is frequently changing its strategy, focus and activities.
  • Milestones or reporting timelines that you have agreed with them are repeatedly missed.
  • Funding appears to be used in a different way or area from the one you had originally intended.
  • The charity appears to be suffering from some kind of reputational damage.
  • The charity is losing some of its key funding sources (although loss of funding can easily result from a change in the economic context rather than from any element of poor performance).

Much of this is good common sense and don’t forget to trust your instincts – just because it’s a charity doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its problems along with its solutions.

About the Author - Emma Turner, Head of Client Philanthropy at Barclays. This article 
first appeared on the Barclays website and has been reproduced with their permission. 
To find out more, visit their website here

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