Don’t Give More, Give Smarter

Philanthropy is often seen as a pastime of the wealthy, with benefactors giving millions of dollars to causes of their choice with the intent to make a difference. From the outside, it can be easy to praise this sort of behavior—after all, with that much money being donated, some kind of difference is being made, right?

Well, yes and no. Despite good intentions, the fact remains that managing massive amounts of money is a logistically difficult process. Leaks in the system cause a large portion of funds to fall by the wayside with things like consulting and management. Often, just a donation is not enough; a more specific effort is required.

And even that can go wrong. An essay on effective altruism cites the Playpump, a carousel-like device intended to pump water while children play, as an example of philanthropy gone wrong. The Playpump was lauded and widely supported by celebrities and subsequently built in poor communities. However, the effort required by the pump took what would otherwise be a piece of playground equipment and unwittingly turned it into a device that necessitated manual labor. In addition, the water it produced was nowhere near enough to provide for an entire village. The Playpump is a cautionary tale in wasted resources, and illustrates the need to determine what any philanthropic effort will cost.

This problem stems from a lack of research on the part of individuals that attempt to give back. While financial decisions are often made with regard to ROI, this kind of thinking is often abandoned when engaging in philanthropy. To many, it’s less about the tangible impact and more about the amount given.

The first step is for donors to figure out what cause their money would best serve. It can be difficult to assess this with our own cognitive biases in place; a cause that may seem relevant to a donor may, in practice, do less good than one that they had not previously considered. Part of it is a matter of what is readily visible; the vast majority of large philanthropic donations go toward developed countries. This leads to missed opportunities in countries that actively require assistance. Part of the problem is that there is little research on the efficacy of different causes. While many charities have been scrutinized for their use of funds, I believe that an approach that goes beyond this to assess impact would be valuable to educate future donors.

Caroline Fiennes is a firm believer in establishing a scientific approach to philanthropy. Fiennes conducting a decade-long analysis with surprising findings about philanthropic impact, including the discovery that success of donation efforts did not hinge on the size of the donation, with the implication that managing funds is more important than spending a lot of money. For instance, Oprah Winfrey’s efforts to open a $4 million school in South Africa are certainly laudable, but the amount of money spent could be used to open hundreds of schools in other countries. It’s not just about the size of the donation, it’s about making the most difference possible.

It is my firm belief that philanthropic efforts should be treated the same way as business efforts in that any initiative is thoroughly analyzed from start to finish, tracking metrics about the extent to which funding meets goals. Budgeting is also crucial to measure how much of a donation is spent on activities unrelated to these end goals.

Research on philanthropic projects seems in of itself an unrelated use of resources, but in the long term, it can ensure that money and time does not go to waste. Many charitable programs cause little to no effect on the causes that they ostensibly support, but the better programs, as evidenced by this study on participation in impoverished schools, can produce 10 times the average impact.

Until this research can be conducted, it is up to donors to evaluate their own methods of giving. All philanthropists have the responsibility to turn a critical eye to their own efforts, and focus on not only making donations, but applying knowledge of causes and financial practices in a smart way.

Passing on Philanthropy: Teaching the Next Generating to Care

Passing On Philanthropy_Lazar Finker

Today, being aware of the world around us and finding ways to help other people is easier than ever, but many people remain oblivious to ways they can participate in philanthropy throughout their lives. To truly pass on the values of philanthropy, we need to teach youth to care for others from a young age. The more young people are exposed to philanthropy and the importance of helping others, the more likely it is that these values will be instilled in them and remain present throughout their lives.

Make it a normal part of life

If you want youth to truly value philanthropy, you need to make it something they recognize as part of their lives. Parents should have a conversation with kids when they’re young and explain what philanthropy is, then begin getting them involved with simple opportunities where they can begin experiencing what it means to give back. Take used clothes to a charity, donate food, or have them save up some money to give to a charity of their choosing. It is up to parents to find child-friendly opportunities, but the foundation is out there. Showing kids the little ways they can be philanthropic will help them make giving a habit.

Teach lessons about philanthropy

After explaining philanthropy and sharing ways to participate in it, give deeper explanations to your children and teach them lessons about the different issues that nonprofit organizations help to address. Explain that there are people in the world who need help with lots of different issues and that it falls to these organizations to help them out, which can be done in various ways. Teach them to be thankful that your family is in a position to be philanthropic and educate them on different events and causes they can focus their philanthropy on.

Set a positive example

If you want your child to understand philanthropy, you need to get them involved. The best way to accomplish this goal is by taking them with you to volunteer or do something philanthropic. Make these activities a regular part of their young lives and they will soon be the norm to them. As they see you being philanthropic in daily activities, they’ll feel inspired to do the same and consider philanthropy a part of family life rather than an activity only done on occasion.

Let them take the lead

Once you feel that your child is old enough to make good decisions or volunteer on their own, let them take the lead. Ask them where they’d like to volunteer and what they feel passionate about, then either encourage their interests and take them to volunteer for that organization or even go with them and make it a family event. If your child thinks of new ways to work on their philanthropic pursuits, support their ideas and work with them to accomplish this goal.

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Social Media

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Social Media—Lazar Finker

Changes in how information is spread have forced nonprofits to adapt or fall behind. To that end, may of these organizations have tried to create strong brands for themselves online, an endeavor which requires the creation of social media accounts and consistent delivery of content. There’s an audience for every cause; but not all nonprofits are created equal when it comes to generating support through social media.

With this in mind, I’d like to discuss a few of the factors to consider when running a social media account as a nonprofit.

What do you want to achieve?

Social media is an effective tool, but it’s not enough to just start an account and expect followers to come out of the woodwork. Before a nonprofit creates social media properties, it should consider the possible outcomes of their campaign and determine what they’re hoping to achieve. Part of this involves defining an audience; they will inevitably play a role in an organization’s outcomes and should be considered carefully.

Conducting surveys and crafting personas are both solid first steps when it comes to defining an audience; and segmenting it as much as possible can create a few different angles to consider when creating content.

What value do you provide through social media?

Once an audience has been established, nonprofits will need to consider methods to properly engage with them. Often, nonprofits will opt to establish themselves as authoritative figures in their subject of choice by crafting original content. This approach is the most useful for establishing brand recognition for a certain nonprofit and education, as it gives an organization control over the message they are sending.

Alternatively, a nonprofit can become a curator of content in their field of choice, a similar approach that allows for easy sharing of news and establishing relationships with other organizations. Lastly, nonprofits can use social media as a platform for bringing their community together, promoting an exchange of ideas and creating passion for the cause.

Really, all three of these have merit, and a balance of the three depending on objectives is the best way to provide value to an audience.

How do you deliver good content?

Part of prompting engagement and raising a strong audience is delivering solid content to stakeholders. Content should be regular, match an organization’s voice and brand, and, perhaps most importantly, be authentic. Don’t go into a social media endeavor with the open intent of leveraging an audience to accomplish something; provide them with answers, engage frequently, and help them as much as you can. This will keep followers coming back and make them more likely to spread the word on their own volition.

Additionally, organizations should ensure that anything posted is of solid quality; paying for stock images or leveraging existing video of charitable efforts can create interesting, visually-dynamic updates.

What to do with an active audience?

In the best case scenario, all a nonprofit need to do to turn a social media following into capital is ask for donations.

This is, however, only practical with an active and engaged following. For that matter, it helps if a nonprofit has an objective that they’re looking to accomplish; involving social media followers as closely as possible is great for generating further engagement.

In many ways, working with social media followers is fairly close to working with potential customers in a for-profit business. Measuring each step of the process is crucial, and involves monitoring outreach activity, page traffic, conversion rates, and retention rates. It’s all about building a relationship that works two ways, and although nonprofits seldom have time to interact with each and every social media follower, they can still be responsive and prolific enough to make meaningful connections through various networks.

Home for the Holidays—Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation Gives Back to Children’s Home

Home For the Holidays—Lazar Finker

Recently, a contribution from the Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation was able to fund a Hanukkah party for the Beit Chaya children’s home in Moscow! Raissa and I are happy to continue to support the Solomon Jewish Community Center and see the impact that our donations have made. See the full presentation here.

Beit-Chaya3 Lazar Finker

Beit-Chaya4 Lazar Finker Beit-Chaya2 Lazar Finker Beit-Chaya1 Lazar Finker

A Brief History of Philanthropy—Generations of Benevolence

A Brief History of PhilanthropyJohn Gardner once said “Wealth is not new. Neither is charity. But the idea of using private wealth imaginatively, constructively, and systematically to attack the fundamental problems of mankind is new.” The notion that fiscal donations are new is fascinating and worth exploring. It speaks volumes about the progression of society and the development of human beings. Gardner’s quote begs the question: why?

The earliest examples of philanthropy have their roots in religion. Many religions are built on charity, encouraging their followers to go out and do good in the world. While poverty was widespread, the promise of paradise after death was enough to spur many in society to make a difference through giving, though generally not in the form of monetary support.

Before the 15th and 16th centuries, humanity was relegated to a feudal system where peasants were more or less inextricably bound to landowners. In this serf-centrist system, the less fortunate were bound by their poverty, powerless to escape unless their feudal lord or landowner deemed it acceptable. This happened rarely, given that said lord was relying on serfs for labor. Following several wars and diseases that changed the very course of history, rural feudalism collapsed into the very dirt it was built upon.

Towns and cities rose from the ashes to create a new social order. The Reformation brought to light new religious philosophies. The Ottoman Empire reached its golden apex. Eastern Asian dynasties created groundbreaking technologies and contributed astounding gifts to humanity. The Age of Discovery inspired creativity and the exchange of ideas. It was the culmination of these things that eventually bred the notion of philanthropy as we know it.

With the increasing social concentration in cities and towns came the very real and noticeable presence of poverty, and with this presence came those willing to do something about it. simultaneous prosperity and despicable working conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution. In the United States, Andrew Carnegie authored the 1889 Gospel of Wealth, which requested of millionaires of the era to distribute their wealth for the greater good. This was the first true piece in the foundation of modern philanthropy. The Gospel of Wealth had enormous implications across nearly all sectors of society including education, culture, science, and public health, both domestically and abroad.

From here, the modern notion of charity continued to develop in conjunction with the rest of the world. The Great Depression, social welfare, The Great War, World War II, racial inequality, and civil rights were but a few of the global concepts and events that continued to mold philanthropy into what it is today. World War II provoked an incredible outpouring of both fiscal and emotional support. Various communities developed in order to provide social support, and the effects of such groups can still be seen today in the form of countless nonprofits and NGOs.

Today, philanthropy continues to develop. Whereas in the post-Industrial Revolution era Andrew Carnegie called for millionaires and people of extreme fiscal resources to give, ordinary people are now able to contribute. The impact of many micro-donations can have a bigger impact than any single large donation. As society develops and refines its practices, so does charity. As we look to the future, let us give our children the life they deserve to live. The first step is continuing to refine philanthropy and to define what it means in the modern world and what it will mean for future generations.

Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation Gives Back to Children’s Home

Giving Back—Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation Donates to Children's Home

Dr. Lazar Finker and his wife, Dr. Raissa Frenkel, have always been passionate about giving back to the community, whether locally or half a world away. Their organization, the Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation, is committed to making an impact by supporting causes in multiple fields such as medical research, education, religious development, and children’s welfare.

With this in mind, the Foundation’s donation to Solomon, a Jewish Community Center in Moscow, is logical, given the couple’s heritage and previous charity work with other Jewish organizations. The funds that they provided went toward providing repairs, food, and clothing to Beit Chaya, a Jewish children’s home.

Beit Chaya Children's Home

With the contribution, Beit Chaya was able to renovate an entire floor of rooms and help give orphaned children a better life. Solomon recently contacted the Foundation with news on how its donations had improved the facilities, including pictures of the updated home and a bio on one of the many children that reside there.

Beit Chaya Children's Home

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Residents of Beit Chaya

The floor that the Finker-Frenkel Foundation improved is home to younger residents, including Artem, a four-year-old whose life has been touched by the home.

Artem, a child living at Beit Chaya

After spending his first few years locked in an apartment with his alcoholic mother, Artem found a home at the Beit Chaya, and has now become much more open to exploring its hallways and interacting with others. It is Raissa and Lazar’s sincere hope that other children like Artem can find happiness with the help of philanthropy.

The couple, along with the rest of the Foundation, is excited to continue to support their home country of Russia and to see what positive change can come about as a result of their giving.