No More Charities
I frequently have people ask me if we can get together sometime for them to “pick my brain” about how to start a charity. I smile and tell them I can give them all the advice they need in one sentence: Do not start another charity.
Obviously, they are always a bit taken aback by this advice, since I am so dedicated to making a difference, so let me explain.
In 2009, I co-founded a charity, FiXiT Foundation, to help bring an end to the pet overpopulation problems in the US. I was starry-eyed and ready to take on the world, but I quickly learned some very painful lessons. FiXiT accomplished our goals and lives on, but I never would have started a charity if I knew what I know now.
#1 – We have too many charities in the US (and possibly abroad, but I don’t have those stats). In the US, there were 355,000 charities in 1995. And by 2015 it is estimated there are now over 2.4 million. That is more than a 625% increase.
#2 – While the number of charities is growing at an aggressive pace, the amount of charitable giving has not increased as dramatically and must take inflation into consideration over the 20 year period. Charitable giving in the US in 1995 was estimated at $130 billion and increased to $373 billion by 2015. Although that is a an impressive 225% increase, it is not keeping pace with the growth of the number of organizations needing funding.
#3 – Having 100,000 organizations working on the same issue versus 100 organizations does not necessarily increase the effectiveness, but it substantially increases the amount of funding spent on overhead. Each of these organizations must have administrative staff, executives, branding costs, etc.
In my experience, new charities in the same cause area get started because people within an existing organization have a falling out and someone splinters off and starts another group. Unfortunately, we are cannibalizing ourselves with this practice.
With FiXiT, I had a unique idea and felt the only way to implement it was to start my own charity. If I could do it all over again, however, I would go to work for an existing organization or get involved as a dedicated volunteer.
I often talk about working smarter, not harder, and this is an excellent example. If you are thinking of starting a charity, take a step back and see if there is a smarter way to get the work done. I promise you will be glad you did.