Four reasons why the charitable "giving back" model doesn't work very well.
I've written on this before, Societies around the world are re-examining how they give and how they receive money from other countries or organizations. There has been a ton of new books on the market that are deconstructing the time-held charity model that has ruled a lot of the world for the past few centuries. Some of these books include:
Winners Take All --- Anand Giriharadas
The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman --- John Perkins
With Charity For All: Why Charities are Failing and a Better Way to Give --- Ken Stern
Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance --- Edgar Villanueva
The traditional model of charity is being exposed in front of our very eyes. And that's a good thing. We have a record number of non-profits all around us, yet there is a climate crisis that threatens to destroy all of life as we know it. Match that with dramatic income and wealth inequality along with declining life expectancy along with ongoing systemic racism and you get the picture that whatever we're doing isn't working very well. Here are 5 reasons why we should get rid of the current practice of "giving back".
Giving back can focus on the giver instead of the receiver. Shouldn't the emphasis of an exchange between giver and receiver be about the receiver? After all, it is the receiver who has an acute need that they are seeking to address. Unfortunately, many societies celebrate the givers in hopes of getting more "gifts" in the future. It's backwards. Giving is a privilege.
Charitable giving is outdated. The current charitable giving model was formulated in the robber baron days of the 1920s when the ultra rich elite gave to society to help society needs, while their industries caused the needs in society in the first place.
Charitable giving can be predatory. The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman and the original Confessions of an Economic Hitman lay out how charity is often used as a tool to take other people's resources, money and dignity. Of course, that's not how most charities operate, but a lot of organizations have used charity money as leverage.
Charitable giving can be at the whim of the giver. Every non-profit organization knows the problems that come when a giver gets a wild hair and decides they want to do something else with their money, other than give it to their pet charity. The great work of creating a transformed society should not be based on whether the giver is having a good day or not.
So what are better approaches? There are several, but here are the top three.
Partnerships. I hear people talk about these things all the time, and the organizations who are modeling a completely new and effective approach to being effective via collaboration. Givers now see non-profits as business partners, but for the purpose of getting needs met. This is the right approach because populations believe that is what companies should be doing.
Social Enterprises. The jury is still out on Social Enterprises around the world but they hold a lot of promise. For those of you who may not know, Social Enterprises are organizations that address a basic or unmet need through a market-based approach. This, at least, takes a lot of the variables out that occur with the fickle nature of donor control. But I guess my personal question is: shouldn't all organizations become social enterprises that work toward the greater good?
A philosophical sea change. This is the most difficult idea to implement simply because it requires an overhaul of the shareholder's philosophical construct as developed by Milton Friedman who said some years ago that the primary function of a corporation is to maximize profits at all costs. I can argue that this construct has led us directly to an extinction level event called climate crisis. Indeed, it is also the number one reason there is a relative lack of a cohesive global response to this crisis. The new philosophical construct should be that the primary function of a corporation is to secure the well being of a society and the planet while creating profit.
Climate crisis is asking all of us to take a look at what we're doing so that we maximize on the survivability of humanity. The charity model is not exempt from this re-thinking.
Chet W. Sisk is an author and one of the world's leading Social Futurists. He is also expert on the current world paradigm shift. Find out more about him and the LEAD Global Team at www.leadtheshift.com or you can write him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org