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There are thousands of missions programs, aid agencies and good willed philanthropists in the world today. Altruism has been with us since the beginning of time, and I’m grateful for that. Unfortunately, a lot of the methodology used today also seems to be from the beginning of time.

Civilizations change drastically over time. Our methods of altruism should adapt appropriately. What helped before may no longer be helpful or relevant now. A commitment to adaptability is absolutely crucial.

The business world is constantly adapting to the needs and desires of their customers. Why is this not the pervasive dynamic of philanthropy? Broken, antiquated systems plug along year after year, often causing more damage than good. Donors continue funding them because they are equally out of touch.

Aid agencies are often built on systems that foster donor dependency. They don’t adapt because they risk loosing their funding. They need funding, so they develop a simple mission designed to compel donors. Those donors then insist the agency to continue on that path, despite the need for adaptation.

It’s a bit like turning the Titanic around. It’s too big of a machine with too many moving parts. It’s easier to steady the course and “not rock the boat”, so to speak.

Douglass MacArthur once said “We are not retreating; we are advancing in another direction”. This doesn’t change the goal, just the methodology. It doesn’t represent a failure. It represents a true commitment and relationship with the people you serve.

If you’re committed to serving the people, not the system, it is always going to be necessary to adapt and advance in another direction when your methods are no longer serving their needs. It’s your duty as a philanthropist to stay in tune with the people enough to know when this need arises.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Repp on May 18, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    Thanks. Inspired by you passion, commitment and clear thinking on such important topics.

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