Charles Bronfman in the Financial Times: Charities need to leverage their dough


Charles Bronfman and the head of his Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Jeff Solomon, wrote a joint piece for the Financial Times a few days ago, in which they chastised foundations and individual donors for not doing enough to leverage their money:

“We find it very disheartening to see individual and institutional donors giving money but not using leverage to extend the long-term value of their gifts. These funders are doing ‘big-ticket’ charity work, where one dollar put into the system yields no more than one dollar of social benefit in return. Whether you are Bill Gates or a moderately wealthy individual who wants to engage in philanthropic activities, you can use best-practices to extend the social value of your gifts.”

Bronfman and Solomon go on to suggest three areas where foundations/individuals can leverage their money:

Programmatic. In a slowing economy, foundations must carefully evaluate the efficacy of each grant recipient, and if necessary, decrease funding to those that are not yielding social dividends. Determining the impact and efficacy of your grantees is challenging work to be sure, but if you are unable to do this, how can anyone else be expected to? Conduct programme evaluation work based on predetermined criteria and you will strengthen the overall performance of your grantee portfolio, thereby ensuring that your energies are not squandered on under-performing grantees.

Communications. A straightforward but often overlooked strategy for leveraging greater social return is to develop a communications plan around your philanthropy. Shine the spotlight on your grantee successes. Generate attention about the issues for which you advocate. Tell your community about the role philanthropy is playing in its own backyard. It is much easier to engage outside funding and partners when your work is visible to the public. Share your failures along with the successes. Philanthropy is defined by its spirit of innovation and risk. If we only talk about what is working, we doom others to make the same mistakes that we have.”

Relationships. In 2000, the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies in partnership with philanthropist Michael Steinhardt spearheaded Birthright Israel, providing first-time trips to Israel for young Jews. By leveraging early funding and a myriad institutional, governmental and personal relationships, we secured the long-term capital required to make the programme work. At the time of writing, more than 170,000 young adults from 52 countries have participated in the programme. This year, Birthright Israel’s annual budget is $104m, funded by a coalition of private donors, the government of Israel and the US public Jewish federation system.”

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