Douglas Bauer: What to look for when picking a charity
Jun 17, 2013 @ 12:00 am
The Clark Foundation boss says that while charitable giving may be driven by the heart, donors still need to be smart.
This week on WealthTrack, philanthropy as an investment. Two thought leaders on the art of giving -- the YMCA's Jack Lund and Clark Foundation's Doug Bauer -- explain how to get the best and most effective returns from your charitable donations. Next on Consuelo Mack WealthTrack. So, Jack at the Y, which has, you know, a long history and you've been at the Y for-- various Ys for a long time and now you're the largest one in the country. So, tell me, you know, what kind of criteria are donors coming to you with at the Y and how was that changed how you're operating. -It's changed dramatically and, you know, in the 1970s and 80s, we were able to say that we developed children in spirit, mind, and body and that was really enough for our donor public, but that has really changed. They are asking for results and looking for outcomes and I think, for us, it's added discipline and rigor and more structure. It means that our curriculum has to be better developed and that we also have to deliver the capacity to collect the data, to collect the outcomes and then report on it, and it is challenging, it is costly, but fundamentally it's made us better. -So, give us some examples of the kinds of things that you're doing in response to, you know, donors' interest. -I would say, probably, the most extensive piece of research we've done is in our after-school programs. We have a relationship with Fordham University, and for a 10-year period, we measured school attendance, behavior, math scores, and reading scores and the kids that were in our after-school program consistently outperformed their peers in every area, but reading scores until we realized that about 75% of our kids were the children of immigrants where English was not the primary language spoken at home and so we took a pass on that. -Right. But also, you know, and I'm just thinking of the things that we traditionally think of from the Y, it has an affected programs like that you teach all of the public school second graders to swim because, as we know, drowning is the-- -Right. -I think it's the major cause of death among, you know, young children. So, it-- -Yeah. -has that-- I mean-- -Yeah. Well, if the-- you know, the-- I supposed you could say the outcome is to prevent drowning, but the output is to be able to demonstrate that you've learned to swim and outputs can be a proxy for-- -Right. -for outcomes. You know, we have the same challenge in some of our children's health programs that are really targeted to reducing youth obesity, the epidemic of youth obesity which it is. And in this case, the only-- the only thing we're willing to measure safely is activity-- is activity levels. We know, based on research that Harvard has done, that if a child has 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-- -Right. -physical activity five out of seven days that it leads to good health behaviors and that's basically an output as a proxy for an outcome and that's enough for our funders and it's enough for us. -Doug, I'm just thinking what hasn't changed in philanthropy? I mean, what are-- what are just some of the foundations of philanthropy that have not changed when we're talking about trends in giving? -Well, you know, it's interesting to me as one who-- you know, I've tried very hard to be a student of the history of the field-- -Uh-huh. -and you know, I mean, we should remember that John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie very much brought a business perspective to their giving-- -All right. -as did some of the other-- including the Clark family as well. I mean, there's a real-- there was real discipline behind what they do. However, it is a mixture of head and heart and I don't think that's changed at all. You know, good philanthropy is, you know, you're giving because you want to do something, you wanna do something positive, you wanna do something that has a real benefit to community, and that the active giving is ultimately a fairly emotional one, but you want that emotion infused and formed by some good due diligence. And so that's where the business side comes in. I mean, you wanna look at the management practices. Is there someone like Jack running the show that knows what they're doing? -Right. -You know, are the finances strong? Do they have the capacity within their programs to do what they actually think they can do and should do? That's-- So, it's that marriage between, you know, all the stuff you need to do is a good business person who would look at an investment and do that work, but there's also this-- Well, you know, do I really care about this charity? Do I think they make a difference in the community? And not all of that is tangible. So, it is that marriage of those two ideals that I think does create great philanthropy and there are numerous examples of that over the last 200 plus years in this country. -Right. And so, Jack, you know, from-- again, from your experience and you know the Y's history as well, almost 200 years, so you know, what hasn't changed? What are-- What are [unk] that the philanthropic-- the donor, you know, behaviors that really have changed? -I think the fundamental principles are-- I think the fundamental principles are the same. People give to organizations that they care about and you're right it's a blend of head and heart, but it's-- you know, the organization's case for support, their value, how well they're managed. I think one of the most important things for us is strategic planning. -Uh-huh. -And a lot of donors, they don't-- don't bring your annual report because any organization can make themselves [unk] on an annual report. Do you have a plan? -Right. -And do you have a strategic plan? That's an important question. I think the second thing that hasn't changed is leadership. It's not just staff leadership but boards. Our donors wanna know, "Who's on the board and what's the board doing? Is the board giving? Is the board supporting the charity?" I think that's very important as well.