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Acknowledging the existence of these traps, and recognizing that they will never really go away, however experienced and wise we become, offers some help in avoiding them.
Trap #1: Fuzzy headedness
As a philanthropist, your passions, values, and beliefs will fundamentally drive your giving. But unfortunately, “fuzzy headedness” occurs when donors allow their emotions and wishful thinking to completely override logic and thoughtful analysis. One common symptom: When asked “what are you trying to accomplish?” do you respond with broad, hopeful statements (like “curing cancer,” “ending poverty,” or “stopping global warming”)? If so, you’ll need to get more specific.
Trap #2: Flying solo
One of philanthropy’s great ironies is that very little can be accomplished by individuals acting on their own, even when those individuals are extraordinarily wealthy. The greater your ambitions, the more certain it is that success will require working with and through a broad range of other players.
Trap # 3: Underestimating and under-investing
The third trap to avoid is underestimating and under-investing in creating success. It is astonishing how often donors fall into this trap, given how much philanthropic wealth is created in the high-pressure crucible of business, where mastering the intricacies of investment is essential to survival. The old saying “Everything takes longer and costs more than you expect” holds as true when you are trying to drive social change as it does when you are engaged in home renovations.
Trap #4: Nonprofit neglect
No one likes wasting money, and funding for “overhead” can feel like a waste. Suppose you decided to fly on the airline that reported the lowest maintenance costs? Or go to the hospitals with the oldest equipment? In many circumstances, you will gladly pay for more “overhead” if it delivers value to you. Nonprofits, too, have good overhead and bad overhead.
Trap #5: Satisfactory underperformance
Finally, in a philanthropic world overflowing with appreciation, you might quite naturally fall into the trap of satisfactory underperformance: accepting praise without really pushing yourself to continually improve.
Read the full article about avoiding philanthropy traps at The Bridgespan Group.