Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giving to charity is much like investing

A great article today in the New York Times about charitable giving. It talks about George Soros $50 million gift to the Millennium Project. Some quotes are taken from Soros about his gift to the charity.

The article also provides some guidance to would be givers on how to choose a charity. Explaining that some research is needed much like you would research an investment. It reminded us that we should have one of these charity oversight groups on our "get Involved Links" so we will add Charity Navigator later today.

Our snippet from the Times article includes Soros explanation on why he thought the Millennium villages was a worthy charity.

Mr. Soros’s gift was for Millennium Villages, a project of Millennium Promise affecting a half-million people in Africa, where more than 80 villages are operating or are planned in 10 countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. Professor Sachs described the project as community-based development using a three-pronged approach — agriculture, health and education.

Asked why he had chosen Millennium Promise, Mr. Soros, a graduate of the London School of Economics, said, “Watching the Millennium efforts, I thought it was worth taking a risk.”

“My calculation in supporting this is as follows: $500 will move a family out of poverty,” he said. “As a pilot program, it will make a big difference in the pilot villages.” That is the first level of risk, he said, and it alone would justify the expenditure.

The second level of risk is leverage, or the hope that the villages will succeed in setting an example. “It can be a model for bringing about systemic change,” Mr. Soros said, and “if it can be scaled up, it will make a very big difference.”

Often pilot programs do not succeed on a larger scale, he added, but in this case he is hopeful. The government of Mali is very supportive, he said, so it could be expanded there.

Asked how he would advise prospective donors, Mr. Soros said they should “do as much research as possible. Looking at the expense issue is relevant but not decisive.” The humanitarian factor is vital. “There is no substitute for firsthand engagement,” he said.

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