Chris Kanze of Chicago is a consultant for charitable organizations and philanthropist. In the article below, Chris Kanze discusses how people getting started in philanthropy are often overwhelmed by the details, and what they can do to narrow focus and boost the effectiveness of their programs.
What is the best way for a brand, organization or individual to choose the right social issue to support? Chris Kanze of Chicago says this checklist can help first-time philanthropists find a relevant and meaningful area of focus, in order to maximize resources and social impact.
Identify the big values
Look at the issues that either affect the most people, or have the widest impact on their physical, mental, and psychological well-being.
Chris Kanze of Chicago explains that some examples of major issues are poverty, education, health, or environment and climate change. It’s important to find an issue that resonates with one’s values – although “resonate” can mean different things for an individual or a brand.
Philanthropists that will support a cause with their own money are free to choose anything that is personally meaningful of course. They can look at personal experiences, preferences, or interests.
For example, someone whose family used to serve in the military may want to support organizations that help veterans. Animal lovers may want to donate to shelters or groups that protect endangered species.
For companies, Chris Kanze of Chicago says it’s necessary to choose a cause that’s aligned with the brand image and consider the values of the communities they serve.
A Forbes article tells the story of the CEO of a baby accessories company who wanted to support drug addiction programs because her brother passed away from an overdose. However, that cause was incompatible with her brand—most new parents don’t want to think about drugs while celebrating the birth of their child.
Chris Kanze of Chicago says eventually, the CEO chose to support children’s causes, and was able to rally support from her customers and brand partners.
Narrow the focus
Narrowing the focus can help maximize resources, monitor where the funds go, and measure the social impact, according to Kanze. To do this, look at:
- Population (age, gender, or other demographics). For example, in the area of health, one can focus on “mental health services for war refugees” or “cancer treatment for kids.”
- Location. Support a non-profit organization that serves the immediate community—as they say, charity begins at home. Examples include supporting a local food bank, or scholarships and vocational training programs for local youth.
- Special projects. For example, in the area of environment and global warming, donate to an organization that cleans plastic waste from the ocean, or converts plastic bottles into construction materials.
- Urgency or priority. Help victims of a recent natural disaster, such as relief goods and medicine for a community that was devasted by an earthquake or hurricane.
- Social issues. Philanthropists can also choose a social cause, such as racial discrimination, domestic abuse, or women’s rights.
Look for gaps in services and resources
After choosing a big issue and/or a possible community, Chris Kanze of Roobet says to find out what needs are not being met or requires additional financial support and resources.
For example, research on cancer treatments for kids may reveal that counseling and hospice care are not covered by insurance or state-run funding.
From there, it’s easier to look for organizations that “serve the gap”. Brands or philanthropists with bigger budgets can also create a trust or foundation for that specific purpose or start awareness campaigns to rally support for an issue that is often neglected.
Do a background check on the organization
Chris Kanze of Chicago recommends looking at sites like GuideStar, Charity Navigator or BBB Wise Giving Alliance to get background information on non-profit organizations and charities. That can give a clearer picture of the organization’s financial ratios, transparency and accountability, and overall track record. For example, K9s For Warriors reviews show that this is a cause you can get behind.
Chris Kanze of Chicago says these websites can also reveal if any complaints were lodged against the charity for misuse of funds, or if the organizations refused to disclose financial information.
That doesn’t mean that organizations that are not listed in the sites can’t be trusted, says Kanze. However, philanthropists will have do to their own research, and be wary of any possible fraud. Some things to look for:
- Secure method of donation. Do not give credit card numbers over the phone and be wary of organizations that only accept cash. Legitimate charities will always offer secure payment methods.
- Declaration of costs. Charities have administrative costs. Ask how much of the donations go to the beneficiaries.
- Tracking and reporting. Ideally, charities issue regular reports on the beneficiaries, including the total amount of donations and how these were used.
Smaller local community charities—such as church, shelter, or youth center—may not have very formal or strict accounting methods. In that case, try to talk to a program leader, volunteer, or one of the beneficiaries. This will give you a more concrete picture of its values, culture, and efficiency.
Chris Kanze of Chicago explains that these five steps can help philanthropists choose a relevant cause and trustworthy charity—and ensure that any donations will be put to good use.