Potential Problems with Philanthropy and How to Address Them



While many philanthropists have selfless motivations, this is not true of everyone who wants to give back to the global community. Some charities are not set up in ways that directly benefit the communities they are intended to help. When deciding which projects to support, would-be philanthropists need to choose carefully. This article will explain some of the problems that can happen when philanthropy is not effectively managed and how donors can spot these problematic situations.

Excessive Overhead

When choosing a philanthropic organization to support, donors need to do their research. One of the red flags that donors should be aware of is how the organizations are funded. If an organization spends too much money on overhead and salaries of its top executives, this is a sign that you should take your money elsewhere.

In the United States and around the world, the website Charity Navigator has researched the background of many organizations. Using this website can help people decide which organizations are worthy of support.

Vague Objectives

If the organization you want to support has a website, you should carefully check its mission statement and goals. If the organization is not specific in its goals and objectives, you may want to look elsewhere. Organizations that do not have the ability to focus on specific projects may be no more than tax shelters for wealthy donors. Look for photos and stories of work in progress and contact some of the partner organizations yourself if you are skeptical.

Poor Community Reputation

Even if the charity you want to support has good marks when it comes to its goals and mission statement, it may be disliked in the local community. Choosing a community-focused organization is a must. If the organization does not have the local residents’ actual needs in mind, it is not a good place to put your money.

Attitude Toward the Community

If the charitable organization has a patronizing method, they need to update their policies. Too many charities, even within the United States, have issues with looking down on the communities they are intended to support. This can occur for social, political, and cultural reasons. The charity needs to have an open-minded view of the community it is intended to support, rather than relying on stereotypes and commonly held assumptions.

Religious Issues

Frequently, charitable organizations have a religious worldview. This is fine, and many religious charities have done incredibly good work to support local people, but it is necessary to go in with caution. Even missionary groups need to be respectful of the local culture and customs.

Rather than imposing their views from the top down, they should get to know the local population and work with them on a personal level. This can help to reduce some of the resentment that people in the developing world feel toward charitable groups. This can be traced back to problems related to colonialism in previous decades.

Culture Clashes

Charities sometimes conflict with the local culture in areas where they operate. Minimizing these clashes can be accomplished by having enough local residents involved with the operation of the charity. Taking the time to understand the details of the local culture can help you decide on your priorities. It is important to go in with an attitude of open-mindedness. Some areas have strict political or social strictures, and while you may want to change these conditions, you need to respect the wishes of the local population.

Starting a Charity

When you start your own charitable organization, you will have more freedom to set it up the way you want. You may find that this is your best bet when it comes to making a difference in the community. However, you should make sure that you are not entering an area that is already served by multiple other charities. Save your resources for a community that has more demonstrated needs.

Starting your own charity can be difficult from a logistical standpoint, and for this reason, many philanthropists decide to commit to other organizations. Setting it up yourself will give you the ability to monitor its operations and make sure that your money is well-spent.

How to Ensure a Positive Experience

Watching out for these red flags can help you find a charity that is truly working for people in the community you want to support. Avoiding poorly run or deceptive charities will help you make sure that your money is going to the right place. It is not always possible to fully vet a charity in another country, so do your best before donating any money.

Deciding to become a philanthropist is a major step. It is commendable to take responsibility for problems in the global community. Be sure that you are sensitive to local needs and focused on creating systemic change rather than putting a band-aid on an issue.

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