Go on treat yourself…donate to that charity! Said no one.
Ambica Jobanputra, Head of Social Leadership & Engagement, BeyondMe
“Shall I buy those festival tickets? Or maybe go to the theatre. No, actually I’ll save it.” Sound familiar? You probably recognise the thoughts we’ve all had as we weigh up what to do with the ‘fun money’ left over from rent, food and travel. The thought that almost never appears is ‘I could up my donation to a charity or cause’.
Money makes the world go round…but not for charity, it seems.
Historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote that “money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised”. He’s right. Money is the common language that communicates value, allowing the world’s 7.4 billion people to cooperate in ever-evolving ways. So, if we show what we value through money, you’d expect piles of cash to rapidly make their way to solving social problems. Instead, it’s more common that organisations struggle to generate enough income to sustainably solve the most intractable social problems.
Do we value donations in the same way we value our consumer spending?
I once told someone I worked for a charity and they reacted by asking if that was a “full-time thing”. There seems to be a disconnect between the value, and power, we give to money as consumers and how we see it as charitable donors. As consumers, we go out into the marketplace on an active and exciting hunt for things that bring us joy or have longevity or utility, fuelled by creative marketing.
Yet we often approach investment or donations to social causes — and society as a whole — with a frugal furrowed brow. As donors, we’re always sure to give in just the right amount, never too much. We don’t question whether ‘too much’ is even possible when you look at the complexity and enormity of issues facing the most vulnerable.
Why does it matter?
It matters because it impacts the choices we make and the world we live in. More money flows to curing male baldness than it does to developing a cure for malaria. More money is spent on food that is ultimately thrown away than the amount it would take to feed all the world’s hungry. And in the US, 11 states are spending more on prisons than their public colleges.
Businesses providing the products and services we love to consume need money to keep doing what they do and find ways of doing it better, at scale. Organisations devoted to improving the lives of those for which ‘there is no market’ are no different. Over 160,000 charities in the UK share £37 billion, while £292 trillion consumer pounds whoosh through our thriving economy.
We take it as a fact that charities are always struggling for cash. What we fail to recognise is that all of us feel the consequences of that.
Can we think differently?
Imagine if we could say, with confidence, that enough money was invested into organisations helping those most vulnerable, or improving the environment, or investing in health innovation. Just like we know the next Mac, iPhone and coffee-machine will be light-years better than the current one, imagine if we knew the next homeless person we saw on the street would be absolutely fine in a moment or two, because the thriving homeless charities not only had the resource to help them get back on track for good but also had the means to invest in developing the most effective means of prevention.
We don’t have to imagine, but we do have to change our mind-set. If we can begin believing — in fact relishing — the impact we’re having with our donations, we’ll start to look forward to giving more. If we begin seeing the power of our donations as an investment in the world we want to live in, I believe we’ll start to see thriving charities and social problems sustainably tackled.
You’ll be familiar with the quote that “every dollar you spend, or don’t spend, is a vote you cast for the world you want.” Money matters. Your consumer pounds can transform your life, your donation pounds have the power the transform the world you live in.
BeyondMe is a growing movement where professionals, businesses and charities join together to make a meaningful impact on the world beyond them.