Wouldn’t it be great if you could go online and find a recipe for effective philanthropy that resulted in the perfect gift every time? It would be wonderful to do away with the anxiety of not knowing if your gift accomplished what you hoped for – or even worse – the disappointment of learning it did not.
Every cook knows that finding the perfect recipe takes a good bit of trial and error. Right now, I’m on a quest to figure out the pinto bean recipe of a local restaurant, Jucy’s Hamburgers. I have tried many versions of my best guess and have now started asking friends who cook to try the beans and tell me their best guess of the ingredients.
As soon as I learn someone is a frequent patron of the restaurant, I ask if they have tried the pinto beans. I’ve searched the internet for the recipe, and I’ve scoured recipe sites to try to find recipes that seemed close. No luck so far.
So often, giving seems exactly the same. If I become interested in a program that an organization provides or a particular audience they serve, I start trying to figure out how to make sure my gift gets used how I want it and with the desired outcome. What I really want is the “secret recipe” that will ensure my gift is not wasted.
Frank Shorter, an American distance runner and winner of the marathon racing event of the 1972 Summer Olympics, said it well, “You don’t run 26 miles at five minutes a mile on good looks and a secret recipe.”
So, there is no secret recipe – not for your giving, the Summer Olympics or my pinto beans. We almost always have to experiment, ask for input, and keep trying until we get it the way we want it.
Here’s my advice based on experience – if you are working with a nonprofit, ask the Executive Director how to get to the outcome you’d like to see from your giving. This probably won’t be a short conversation; hopefully it will be long enough that you become more informed about the subject. And when you make the gift, your expectations will be more clearly defined and more realistic.
The last time I went to Jucy’s Hamburgers, I asked the young woman who took my order if she knew how the beans were made, and she told me that the beans were made long before she arrived each day. My goal now is to get to the cook.
When your gift matters, take the time to explore and become more informed. You’ll feel like you found the “secret recipe.” I’ll probably still be tasting the beans.
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