Choose Your Own Adventure, Philanthropy Edition
As a young child, I always loved reading books from the Choose Your Own Adventure series. If you’re not familiar with the books, in summary, they’re “a series of children’s gamebooks… with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcome.”
Each book promised seemingly endless permutations of final outcomes; some were heroic, while others were terrible. But the books were never boring. I remember the distinct thrill of making important, consequential decisions that would impact each book’s storyline, and ultimately, my fate as the protagonist.
Do you want to enter the cave and find out what is making such a strange sound? If so, turn to page 54. Or, do you want to play it safe and run away? Then turn to page 70.
Then, a few pages later, another big decision:
Do you stop for gas at this station? If so, turn to page 90. Or do you wait and fill up at the next town? Then turn back to page 19.
This decision-making process inevitably led to a desire to go back in time and get a “do over” on a consequential choice. What if I had made a different decision? How would the story have been different? If only I knew all the options! I have to admit, I usually read the books with at least three fingers stuck between the pages of prior decision points, just so I could see what would have happened if I’d have pursued a different path.
And that, in a nutshell, is what was simultaneously so wonderful and maddening about every Choose Your Own Adventure book. On one hand, it was empowering to have so many options. Choice is good. But on the other hand, I always had the feeling that I was making too many major decisions in the absence of important information that would have helped improve my outcomes.
What I’ve come to learn in my role at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation is that the same conflict applies in philanthropy. Donors want to invest in important, life-changing programs. But far too often, they’re not aware of the range of programs, events and niche fundraisers that need support at their favored charities. They want to make meaningful choices, but they’re not always sure what their choices are.
I’ve been thinking about this problem a lot lately, and today, I’m happy to announce version 1.0 of a new tool that addresses philanthropy’s version of the Choose Your Own Adventure conflict. Starting from broad categories such as “Family Support,” “Disease-Specific,” and “Injuries,” prospective donors can use this tool to apply filters and fine-tune the resulting set of Phoenix Children’s Hospital programs that align with their philanthropic interests. At launch, the tool includes over 40 Hospital programs, and should provide exposure for many lesser-known but invaluable programs that many of our donors have never even heard of.
The result, hopefully, is the right combination of choice and information, in order to help donors to make optimal, meaningful gift-giving decisions, while also highlighting Hospital programs that save lives, provide critical services, and support patient families.
I’m excited to hear from donors about this new tool, and I want to thank the numerous teammates who provided input and feedback during its design, development and testing (you know who you are). I also want to acknowledge The New York Times, whose Watching tool — a sort of “Choose Your Own Adventure approach to finding a new TV show to watch” — inspired this solution.
Speaking of adventure, why not choose one of your own now, and see for yourself how your philanthropic interests align with the funding needs of Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s programs? My hope is that your journey will be filled with intriguing choices, and that you’ll be inspired to make a gift that improves the lives of children and their families.