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August 17, 2022 / admin

Adopting a Growth-Focused Approach Toward Giving

By Peter Brach, Ed.M.

Let me start by providing a few examples to illustrate a growth-focused approach toward giving. The END Fund is a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating neglected tropical diseases across the globe. One forward-thinking funder decided that rather than focusing on helping one program, he would galvanize his colleagues to improve the functioning of the entire organization. Within two years, the END Fund grew from $57 million to $108 million in annual revenue, which, to the best of my knowledge, has remained steady since. This focus on organizational growth, rather than just supporting programs, unlocked far greater capacity to help many more people with neglected tropical diseases.

Another funder provided the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) with additional staffing during the early months of the Covid-19 crisis. This gave WINGS the time it needed to work with the European Union and secure a one-million-euro grant, the largest in the organization’s history. As a result, WINGS established a campaign asking foundations to commit to combating climate change. Today, more than 500 foundations have taken the pledge, many of whom were not previously committed to this cause. This is a tremendous example, considering that many of these institutions have endowments of more than $20 million, and the catalytic grant was under $70,000.

We Must Inspire a Future-Facing, Growth-Focused Approach Toward Giving

Today, most private donors believe the rule of thumb is that the more money that goes to programs, not to overhead or building strong, resilient organizations, the better. However, when Catalyst 2030 surveyed 1,400 members consisting of nonprofits and other social impact initiatives about the changes they most wanted to see, changing the funding paradigm topped the list.

I respect every funder’s choice to give away money as they see fit. However, the problem is that a vast portion of the general public believes that minimizing money going to nonprofits is the gold standard for smart charitable giving. Millions upon millions of people are unaware that this is one approach, not the only approach. In fact, some of the largest foundations focus considerable portions of their giving toward what is referred to in philanthropy as “nonprofit capacity building.” The media has heavily reported on scams and exorbitant salaries. While these do happen, they rarely report on the countless worthy nonprofit leaders who work evenings and weekends on small salaries without receiving the funding needed to get off of this unending treadmill.

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"Organizations supporting philanthropy have been around for over a century, but only recently have we seen a more significant growth in number of institutions."

—Worldwide Initiative of grantmaker Support

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“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

—Abraham Lincoln

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“The best minute is the one you spend on investing in people.”

—Kenneth H. Blanchard