Back in 2016, Bill Gates, donated 100,000 chickens to people around the world living on $2 a day and blogged about how raising egg-laying fowl can be a smart, cost-effective antidote to extreme poverty. The idea, however well-intentioned, attracted scorn from some quarters.
Bolivia declined the offer after it was pointed out that the country already produces some 197 million chickens a year. The episode is a pointed reminder that being an effective philanthropist isn’t as easy as it might seem.
Phil Buchanan, author of Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count is the founding CEO of the Cambridge-based Center for Effective Philanthropy. For the past 17 years, he has worked closely with more than 300 foundations and scores of individual givers, exploring the landscape of American giving, distilling lessons learned (both successes and failures), and highlighting what works and what doesn’t. (Spoiler alert: there’s no single answer as to how to give “right.”)
A strong framework can help anyone engaged in philanthropy to be more thoughtful, open-minded, and willing to learn, adapt, and keep trying.
As Buchanan sees it, anyone can be an effective philanthropist, and there is no one best practice to that end, other than to be as engaged as one can be.