Free Charities from The Idea of Charity

“We’ve put charities in a box for far too long, let’s set them free.”
~ Nat Ware, CEO of 180 Degrees Consulting

IN an informative and timely TED Talk, Nat Ware explains how society’s traditional notions of ‘charity’ often constrain the ability of charities to have a meaningful social impact.

Below we highlight three beliefs about charity that Nat argues are holding us back:

  1. Measuring social impact: we tend to assess a charity’s effectiveness in superficial ways. For example, we tend to measure a charity’s effectiveness based on whether it has low administration costs, ignoring the fact that higher administration costs may also mean much higher social impact. We also tend to assess a charity’s worth based on anecdotal evidence rather than objective data driven analysis. This is a problem since it means that we are probably misdirecting our charitable dollars and having less impact than we think.
  2. Operating for profit: we wrongly believe that a charity should never operate for profit.  This belief ignores the fact that organisations often need to generate profit so that they can attract investment to scale their operations and have a meaningful impact.
  3. Taking risks: we expect that charities will exist forever, however we don’t have the same unrealistic expectations about for-profit businesses. Nat explains that even the most successful business leaders (e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson) have experienced countless failures in the process of building remarkable and world leading businesses. By not allowing charities to fail, we are limiting the entrepreneurial innovation which is needed to solve many of the world’s biggest problems.