Starting in August, GIVEGROWGO is featuring some fascinating philanthropy and social good books. The first book is A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (authors of the #1 best seller ‘Half the Sky’).
A Path Appears is about the sweeping tapestry of people and organizations that are making our world a better place. Not only that, but the book also provides a guide to the ways that we can do the same – whether it is a donation of just $5 or $5 million or with our time, by capitalizing on our passions and skillset as individuals, and by using the resources of our businesses. Essentially, A Path Appears presents a road map to becoming the most effective global citizens we can be.
GIVEGROWGO has carefully selected some quotes and intriguing facts from the first quarter of A Path Appears. We don’t want to give everything away!
The good news is that experts are gaining a much better understanding of how to make an impact. Researchers are developing new evidence-based approaches, and more charities are starting to measure and track results, so there is an emerging science of how best to make a difference. Anyone can harness this science and be reasonably confident that donations are having an impact, through interventions that until recently were unavailable or uncertain.
Talk about helping others can easily sink into soggy sentimentality, even sanctimony. But the most important counterpoint is that reaching out to try to help, especially when we do it as a social activity, isn’t a Gandhi-style sacrifice. It’s a source of fulfillment, even joy. Over the past couple of decades, a growing stack of evidence has shown that social behaviour – including helping others – improves our mental and physical health and extends life expectancy.
Maybe this deep rooted social element in all of us explains our yearning for a life of meaning. We wonder about our purpose; we care about our legacy.
A generation ago, we didn’t have much more than hunches to guide us in trying to make a difference and build a life of greater meaning and satisfaction. “Giving back” was then what we did in December, hunched over a checkbook and relying on guesswork. In recent years, advances in neuroscience and economics – and a flowering of carefully monitored experiments – have given us much greater insight into what works to create opportunities worldwide, as much greater prospects for personal satisfaction from giving. A path is now appearing to show us how to have a positive impact on the world around us. This is a path of hopefulness, but also a path of fulfillment: typically, we start off by trying to empower others and end up empowering ourselves, too.
The challenge is to nurture a culture of altruism and empathy, seeking to imbue an instinct for social engagement. That is to say, it’s not you or me, but we. That is already beginning to happen, and the progress is expanding empathy over the past 250 years is stunning.
Charities across the United States employ 13 million people and take in $1.5 trillion in revenues eah year, not just from donations but also government grants for running programs for the homeless or low-income school children. That means that the charity industry accounts for 10 percent of the economy – twice the share of national defense. Yet there is negligible scrutiny or accountability, and among the 1.4 million charities in the United States, including churches, there are some that do little more than benefits their founders.
The lesson is to be careful about writing checks, and to take the kind of case in donating to charities that you would in making a large purchase. If you’re buying a large-screen television, you’ll probably conduct a bit of research to make sure you get your money’s worth. Do the same with your donations. Be wary of organizations with names similar to those of famous nonprofits or that are vague about their background and how the money will be used. But remember that while there is the risk of a scam, there is also potential for enormous impact with the right group.
The remedies don’t just involve writing checks. Giving back can also mean donating blood or taking a minute to register as an organ donor. One of the most important avenues is volunteering, which is particularly satisfying because it involves meeting the people benefiting from your efforts.