25 May 2009

History of Philanthropy...

This weekend I read the 2008 Annual Report for Invisible Children in an effort to learn from their advocating… and I stumbled across this HISTORY OF PHILANTHROPY that IC put together…



In the beginning was COLONIZATION.

Powerful nations sent out explorers to share their wealth and knowledge with those less fortunate. The problem was, it was their knowledge and their definition of fortune.

Greed, betrayal and confusion spread and natural resources were taken in the name of progress - and it came at a very high price.



Then a new idea emerged, one that was deliberately focused on relief: HUMANITARIAN AID.

Victims of war were given help regardless of race, tribe or religion.

Anyone could be involved in the effort, no matter what experience they had.

The need was great, and so was the response by major aid organizations.

But this model was soured as the business of benevolence became greedy and less focused on those in need. HUMANITARIAN AID became a competitive market, with funds often staying trapped within the company’s own pockets.

As the industry grew, support for those in need was at a standstill.



A third kind of ASSISTANCE emerged - one of infomercials, billionaires and persuasive celebrities. It was reliant on guilt and strummed heartstrings. 

People threw money at the problem, and things looked like they might get better.

But we became increasingly disillusioned with our ability to make a lasting change, and we started realizing that it would take more.

We, the people, felt uninvolved and excluded, even cynical and powerless.



We decided to go out and LISTEN.

The needs of the needy soon became the desires of friends.

The world worked together to value sacrifice, celebrate creativity, and push our good intentions into action.

We were just a group of friends at first, but we came together to end a war.

It all began with a simple film, but it did not end there.

The future looked hopeful because we believed in this new philanthropy.

This dream wasn’t just for some of us; it was for all.


I thought it was a great concise history of philanthropy… but I do feel that their conclusion falls short of what is needed…


I do agree that we as philanthropists need to LISTEN… but in African culture, especially here in Uganda, the speaker has been trained to say what the listener desires to hear…


Case in point… the current system of education in Uganda is one in which the students are required to repeat everything the teacher says… for example…


Teacher says… “1 plus 1 equals 2”

Class repeats… “1 plus 1 equals 2”

Teacher says… “2 plus 2 equals 4”

Class repeats… “2 plus 2 equals 4”


And on and on it goes Monday through Friday from sun up to sun down… the students are taught to say what the teacher wants to hear…


Now here is an example of me asking and listening to a Ugandan who grew up in this educational system…


Jeff… “When can I expect the work on my car be finished?”

Mechanic… “At 4 o’clock today”


Result… Car work is finished next day at noon


Truth to Jeff… “My car wasn’t finished on time… he lied or is incompetent”


Truth to Mechanic… “Mizungu is always in a hurry… he must want it today… so I must tell him 4 o’clock today for him to be happy with me”


And now a more practical example of an African giving the philanthropist an answer they want to hear… taken from a child sponsorship packet…


Question: What is your favorite activity?


Child’s Answer: Doing my chores.


Interpretation: My sponsor wants me to be hard working and successful or they may stop giving so I should tell them “chores” even though I like soccer


There are countless other examples… 1) Africans asking the Americans to come do a VBS for orphans… even though they already have had 6 weeks of VBS this year… 2) Africans asking Americans to come and paint… because they know that we are too out of shape to dig all day… 3) Africans asking the Americans to come and put on short conferences… because they know we would rather talk than listen … or rather teach than learn…


And on and on it goes… I have spent the last year sharing with my Ugandan co-workers that it is okay to speak straight with the Americans and explain their true needs but the overwhelming fear is that if they do not give the Americans the answer that they want to hear… the Americans will leave!


So in response to the Fourth Phase of Philanthropy I believe that our primary focus should be…



Consisting of:

Education that encourages critical thinking and problem solving

Development that teaches recipients to rely on their natural resources rather than donors

Generosity that encourages the recipients to give in return, whether it be out of their time, talents or treasure, so as not to create a spirit of dependency but rather a spirit of partnership


Again… this is why I believe that the training of Gaba Bible Institute is so important…


We don’t just give them answers… we teach them to find answers…


We don’t focus on what they lack… we focus on what they have…


We don’t give away anything for free… students work hard and at the end can be proud of the education that they earned…


I believe that be equipping Christian leaders is the key to transforming African society…


Equipping = Empowerment




Anonymous said...

I challenge Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to spend the obscene reserves held by their 'Jolie-Pitt' Foundation on legitimate efficient 'humanitarian' work or turn the funds over to others who will. To date, they have taken in $22,000,000 on the sale of baby photos alone, another 6 or 7 figures from other sources, and spent or granted only a fraction of that on 'humanitarian' work or 'good will' of any kind. The rest so far, has been spent on PR campaigns, plane rides, and super-high end accomodations for Brad and Angie in exotic locations around the world. I challenge them to operate with a reasonable overhead, open their books to prove it, get over themselves, and get their 'foundation' worthy of a decent rating by an independent watchdog like Charitywatch.org. Otherwise, to stop selling baby photos for their own 'charity' and stop seeking publicity for donations made in their own name to their own foundation/travel/PR firm within a week of their latest film or DVD release. I challenge Brad Pitt to do the same with his 'Make it right' Foundation. Which to date, has not been given a decent rating by ANY independent charity watchdog. Otherwise, to stop competing with 'Habitat for Humanity' for PR, credit, and funding. Who by the way have been building homes for the less fortunate in every major city including New Orleans for decades. 'Habitat for Humanity' has been 'Top Rated' for years by charitywatch.org and others. They operate with a low overhead, volunteer workforce, and donated materials. No similar effort can match their progress hour for hour or dollar for dollar. Unlike 'Make it right', the homes built by 'Habitat' don't sit vacant. They don't exclude by cost, lower income families. They are allocated and built specifically for the less fortunate who take part in the building process and move in immediately upon completion. 'Habitat' works in every major city including New Orleans. It puts 'Make it right' to shame. In fact, hundreds of legitimate charities have been given good-excellent ratings by Charitywatch.org and other independent watchdog groups. By contrast, the vast, overwhelming majority of celebrity 'foundations' have been rated poorly, fair, or not rated at all. They are inefficient, corrupt, focus heavily on PR, and operate with shady, self-serving, misleading accounting practices. Still, they have the nerve to self-audit, self-praise, mislead the donor/fan base, seek funding from a number of sources including ordinary people, compete with legitimate charities, and cash in on maximum PR for their inefficient 'humanitarian' efforts. Its not right.

Kathy said...

Thanks for this insightful post. I have spent some time in Uganda, and plan to spend more and more time there with a small ministry in Busiga. I have seen the Uganda mindset of saying what they think you want to hear. I have also seen a little of the educational system, and understand that children grow up without learning critical thinking skills. But there is so much more that I need to learn. I know that it will mostly take living among them, but thank you for sharing your insights. Great post!