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Making Charities Rich

August 4, 2010

RT @DenisGobo:  40 billionaires pledge to give away half of wealth 

That’s awesome. That’s 40 billion different kinds of awesome, and I’m glad it’s happening (leaving out the why-hasn’t-this-been-happening-all-along line that’s sure to follow).

But I’m concerned, and I’ll tell you why: Multiply the fortunes of an everyday man or woman by a factor of 10, and you have the perfect setup for a massive life failure. I’ve read plenty of stories about a lottery win ruining someone’s life, because people aren’t set up for scalability on the financial side. Data, too, is good, but if you multiply the amount of data in a database by 10 or 20, you’re suddenly going to have an unusable (or even a crashed) system.

Charities that receive a big windfall like this will have some serious work to do, in order to put the money to good use. You have your normal concerns, like security (no one wants the founder of the local soup kitchen making off with that quarter mil) and sustainability ($500k can do a great deal of immediate good, but it can do even more when invested and making dividends and returns). What I find myself thinking about most is effectiveness. How do you decide what’s best in your organization? How do you get the proper manpower to implement it? How do you make sure it isn’t pissed away by slow projects, red tape, or sheer stupidity?

I’m very, very glad about the impending influx to charities, and I hope it’s directly responsible for some real changes in health, medecine, human rights, and all things good. I also hope for smart giving, and smart stewardship.

-J

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