"Talking with Charities" - Angie Draskovic

Watch Part 1 of "Talking with Charities" with Angie Draskovic, a charity executive from Toronto.

Check out Part 2 of "Talking with Charities" with Angie Draskovic.


"Talking with Charities" - Leonard Buhler

Watch Part 1 of "Talking with Charities" with Leonard Buhler, President of a Langley non-profit organization.

Check out Part 2 of "Talking with Charities" with Leonard Buhler.

Watch our Newest "Talking with Charities" Video!

Meet Bradley Bartsch in Part 1 of our newest "Talking with Charities" video. He is the Executive Director, Development for a Relief, Development, and Advocacy organization.


Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

In just 7 days, this PR stunt by a tiny UK Charity has achieved double the cumulative views over World Vision’s YouTube channel, has had their hashtag trending worldwide on twitter and is causing a commotion of commentary - all without any real brand, mission, reputation or even budget. When was the last time the charity you give to or work for did this?

Don’t worry. They will soon. 

The Pilion Trust is leading the conversation today, and five minutes ago, you never knew they existed. To debate the validity of the video, its message or impact is missing the point. It’s what the video is a product of, what it represents and the future it speaks of that’s worth the attention.

Is this a natural extension of 717, 000 British charities working in the UK all competing for the same relative size of the donation pool? With 60% of our charitable giving going to 1% of all charities, the need to raise your flag bigger than the charity next to you is a matter of survival. We’re in a (perceived) zero-sum charitable giving era, if I’m winning then you’re losing. Hoist your flag higher and you just may survive. 

Could this also be the natural extension of a multi-billion dollar fundraising industry who can’t, for the sake of their job security, shop anything but the cause they’re paid to sell? Could it be that having no voice to speak on behalf of ‘charity’ besides the ones who need you to give to their charity produces a mindset where we’re not interested in nurturing a more philanthropic or generous culture in Canada. The proverbial giving needle hasn’t really moved significantly as a percentage of GDP in decades, and that has to be in part because who is trying to actually do this without first trying to sell their cause? 

Or could this also be the result of the ‘industry’ often more concerned with self preservation than it is with provoking change and leading the conversation in innovative ways. The phrasing the Pillions Trust used for this video was ‘an experiment”, the website is nothing to rave about and really their staffing and infrastructure seem close to negligible. Yesterday you didn’t know they existed. But they’re super responsive in the channels that matter (Twitter and YouTube) and they’re leading the conversation for today. With less on the line they can look at what’s the best way to achieve the desired outcome, and not what’s best for our charity. The former is the question we need to be asking; all the time. So we do the same. We mass mail, use sad faces and over ask because the data tells us “it’s working.” And it is, it’s gaining more than it’s losing, for now. Innovation is for tomorrow. The Pillions Trust didn’t get me to see this video by spamming me, cold calling, or even through me going to their site. They did it by getting it by creating content that I sought out, that Buzzfeed wanted to cary, that friends wanted to post. 

In short, it’s some mix of having a perceived fixed pool of resources (16 billion in giving in Canada), few (if any) groups working to expand that pool in a cause neutral or truly donor focussed way, and an industry more generally interested in self preservation and walled gardens than desired outcome, that produces an environment where shock art like this is completely necessary. 

The future belongs to those who are willing to lead the conversation. I hope it can be led by measuring impact, telling the right stories and meeting donors where they are at (instead of where we’d like them to be). I hope we focus less on us and more on the ‘them’ we’re serving - the outcome we’re working for. If shock art like the above is a part of this conversation, so be it. The change we’re working for deserves to have more YouTube views than the Kardashians - and in today’s ADHD world, if it means wearing a profane sign around our neck, then perhaps that’s the game that needs to be played. Perhaps.

There are a number of things we can do as ‘regular people’ to reverse or at least slow these trends. If forced to fly over, to start: give in principle, with your head and with your heart: set aside regularly an amount month, have it pulled from your account into a separate fund reserved for benevolence (I use but I’m bias). With your own foundation you’re giving on principle not just when asked, it’ll help you establish a regular rhythm of giving that works for you, not based solely on a cycle of appeals. Second, be vocal with your charities - don’t let them get away with bad spam, gimmicks or other - unless of course you like it. Spam works because more people respond to it than don’t. We can help change this. We can get smarter. And third, lets reward the risky, and the causal focussed. Give to those taking the chances to create the change you want to be a part of. Give to those who are breaking status quo, are getting results or at least willing to try new approaches to get those results. 

There are a lot of things that are ‘right’ about this campaign. More than anything it’s a useful commentary on our culture at present, a foreshadowing of what’s to come and a proposal for a new direction. We have the opportunity to change the above: to help change a zero-sum giving model, to individually nurture a more charitable culture in Canada and to urge people to make giving, a part of everyday living. For now, congratulations F*** the Poor on leading the conversation - if only for today.

BIO: Jeff Golby works for Chimp Foundation, an online bank that allows people to manage and amplify their charitable giving. His role is to create a space where creativity, law, charity, money and trust come together in a way that inspires and motivates people to give.
Comments (1)

It’s #complicated.

Welcome to the world of charity, where everyone is a critic, your books are all subject the mob's ‘quest for truth’ and where the complex realities of the real world don’t apply to you: your solutions have to be explainable in a sound bite.

The public shaming of PHS highlights once again our misguided views of doing good. It highlights how we consider it the public duty to tell any group who has dedicated their lives to literally solving the most complicated societal issues they’re doing it wrong if we don’t like something, and how we always want the black and white, the ‘cut and dry’ when dealing in a very grey world. I can’t go line by line down the audit to defend the actions of a man and organization I’ve never met or dealt with. What I can do is suggest that our witch hunt is completely misguided and supremely detrimental to the sector and society at large.

Lets forget for a moment the irony of our government “stepping in” and firing an independent charitable organization’s leadership because of excessive spending, the very government that spends millions suing their own teachers, providing compensation for disgraced politicians and more. And lets focus on three obvious ways the conversation is being steered down a destructive path. 

Suggesting PHS ‘stole’ from public funds or “took money away from the homeless” to pay for cruises is entirely misleading. Money was allocated for admin costs (9%) at the governments’ demand (more on this later) and PHS delivered a service that the government deemed to be “highly effective” for 9%. By this logic we are suggesting that any appropriation of funds not spent on the homeless is stealing from the homeless. Somehow the person on the DTES is a criminal and a thief for spending money we deem inappropriately because it was ‘meant for the poor’ but your GP receiving a salary of $300 000 and up (that comes from that same theoretical purse) is somehow not ? It’s a complete double standard. We’ve decided that either you can help the poor on the "government dime" or you can be rich, you cannot be both. 

Second, criticizing a 9% overhead on a 28 million dollar budget and wondering why perhaps their accountants aren’t top notch is foolishness. The day that Nike makes shoes and returns a 91% profit after all expenses are paid is the day that they get enshrined as the greatest company ever to exist. The government has forced PHS to deliver an incredibly complicated service, manage a 28 million dollar budget and operate in the toughest neighbourhood in Canada, and do so while only spending 9% on non program expenses. 91% goes towards programs - a ratio mandated by the government - and we wonder why they’re not ‘better run’? What percentage of funds do you think your 28 million dollar corporation wastes? Dan Pallota said it best: "we have confused frugality with morality."

Finally, it’s just none of our damn business. If you think receiving government support gives the public and reporters the moral authority to investigate, criticize and “uncover” the scandal in an organization then you better start witch hunting every mining company, every film company, oil co, every tech co, medical clinic and so on. The government tasked the PHS to deliver an incredibly complicated service and gave the rule of only 9% can go to non program expense. PHS agreed to this, and delivered. The governments own audit deemed their program delivery exceptional. How they manage the 9% is irrelevant to you.

To be clear, skimming off the top is obviously wrong, as is excessive spending along with mismanagement. Charities, like businesses need to keep clear financial records and comply to the laws of the land. But context is key. For every one charity that keeps poor records (due to a mandated 9% overhead ratio and or just a bad attitude) there are thousands of businesses who fall the same, one is not worse than the other. No one is above reproach and it may be that Mark and the PHS crew needed to go. But the conversation principally needs to be one around quality of service performed, agreements being kept and results delivered. Any other conversation is a distraction. Let us focus on the real issues at hand, the complexity of the problems on the downtown east side, the new ways we need to fund the organizations working there and the innovation needed to tackle the biggest problems facing humanity. 

Jeff Golby works for Chimp Foundation, an online bank that allows people to manage 
and amplify their charitable giving. His role is to create a space where creativity, law, charity, money and trust come together in a way that inspires and motivates people to give.
See Older Posts...