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Good read as well
Chit-chat – an occasional column featuring authors and their readers
Saturday March 28, 2009

Fundraising Institute Australia

The book: Doing Good Well: What Does (and Does Not)
Make Sense in the Nonprofit World
The author: Willie Cheng
The interviewer: Joan Hoi

A new book about charity models provides a refreshing new take on the charity scene. It effectively reconciles the many apparent contradictions of the charity world.

Fundraising Institute Australia Written by Willie Cheng, a former managing partner of Accenture Singapore, it provides a business perspective to the nonprofit sector.

Joan Hoi (left), a partner at Accenture Malaysia, having read the book, caught up with her former colleague for his take on some specific issues that many donors and volunteers face:

What advice would you give to someone regarding how they should choose a charity and how they should contribute to it?

That’s a good first step – wanting to contribute. I usually ask people to contribute from their strength and from their interest. Strength because that is how you make the maximum impact. If you are a doctor, being part of a medical mission or a health related charity leverages your medical expertise best. All of us have talents which can be used to contribute to society.

Interest because you should do what you have a liking for, better still, a passion for. Interest can also be developed. Often, people are drawn into a charitable cause through being asked to by someone they know, but over time, they develop a passion for that cause.

What about those people who have no time to volunteer, would just giving money do?

That’s fine too. Of course, we should give all of our means – our time, our money, our talents. It is more fulfilling when you give what you can. Many volunteers have found that in applying themselves, when they channel their money towards the same cause they are helping in, the impact they make is that much greater.

I hear many people saying that giving time is more difficult that giving money. That may or not be true. It depends on the individual. I think a more important question is: which will have more impact?

For a successful businessman, the financial resources he can inject into a charity can significantly exceed the impact that he can make working directly in the charity.

I like the example of Warren Buffet, the investor extraordinaire. He pledged his fortune, some US$37bil to charity by giving it mainly through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, rather than doing it on his own. Instead, he will continue doing what he is doing - compounding that money further. The charitable impact that he can make by growing that fortune is a great deal more than he can by rolling up his sleeves and helping out directly with charities.

    Willie Cheng
Willie Cheng ... I like the example of Warren Buffett.

How can donors ensure that a charity is accountable for its spending?

The theoretical answer is “informed giving” – donors should be demanding, discerning, and discriminating of the charities they give to; they should give only to those they believe are doing their jobs properly. That of course is not always practical. The average individual donor gives out of generosity and will not respond too favourably if you tell him that he now has to additionally expend the energy to do due diligence each time he gives a hundred dollars. The practical answer then is for individual donors to give through foundations and funds that have the scale, clout and expertise to do the due diligence as part of their grant making process.

I can tell you though that most charities have got the message: that they need to be more accountable to the community. As the title of the book suggests, we are moving from an era where charity is simply about “just doing good” to one of “doing good well”. They are getting that message from donors, from regulators, from the media and from the general public. It’s now more a question of execution.

Some charities employ people who are paid a commission to raise funds. What do you think of this practice?

Paid third-party fundraising is a practice from the commercial world that does not sit well in the charity sector. Someone provides you a service and in exchange, he gets a cut of the results.

It does not sit well with donors because the reason they give is that they have a heart for the cause, and many donors do not like the idea that part of the money they give do not go to the charitable cause.

There are donors who can be comfortable with the idea that there is a cost to fundraising and that cost is not absorbed by volunteers or a company doing it as part of their CSR. So these donors do not have an issue with the charity outsourcing this part of their operations.

So, the important thing is to ensure that the charities and the fundraisers declare upfront to the potential donors, the commercial arrangements at some level of detail, especially the commission percentage, and if donors give with full knowledge of what is happening, I think it should be fine.

The book is published by John Wiley & Sons and is available at Borders, Kinokuniya and other major book stores in Malaysia and online through Amazon. It recently won the Silver Medal in the Philanthropy / Charity / Nonprofit category of the 2009 Axiom Business Book Awards.

The original article can be downloaded here or accessed here.

About The Star
The Star is the leading English-language tabloid format newspaper in Malaysia. With a circulation of about 300,000 issues daily, it is the largest in terms of circulation in Malaysia.

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