GiveMeaning on the Hour

Just a quick one, I should be going to bed…

While reading up on my feeds today I noticed that my friend Tom Williams had just done an interview with George Stoumbouloupolous on CBC’s the Hour. Had to check it out.  Good video of the whole thing.

Tom and I met at  mesh in May and our ideas really clicked.  I actually went to Toronto for the conference specifically to get in touch with him and another friend now, Will Pate. Their ideas on philanthropy and building communities seemed to jive with what I wanted to get out of a social media conference. And to be honest, I can still pull up the energy that I got at the conference when thinking of new ideas on businesses, projects, environment marketing etc etc etc. It’s amazing what happens when like-minded people start talking.

Anyways, Tom’s site GiveMeaning.com is doing quite well.   In short, “GiveMeaning.com is an online fundraising site emphasizing creative fundraising ideas and other unique forms of charity donation. ”   Take a look and give him your thoughts if you’re keen on it. He’s pretty open to it.

Cheers.

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3 thoughts on “GiveMeaning on the Hour

  1. Jay Godse says:

    The idea I like for charity is http://www.kiva.org. You loan them money interest-free. They loan money to qualified 3rd world businesses in the form of “microcredit” at interest rates far lower than their usurious local financial sources charge. The interest they pay covers the administrative and due-diligence costs of Kiva’s local development partners that administer the loans. Since it is an interest-free unsecured loan from us to Kiva, it is not regulated here and Kiva does not have to bear the cost of regulatory compliance.

    A lot of those businesses in the 3rd world are horribly undercapitalized. From what I can see, most of them use it to buy capital equipment that enables them to be much more productive, or to enable them to build better and more reliable distribution channels. Either way, a little capital facilitates a lot of cash flow and profit.

    The net effect is that a lot of the borrowers become independent and prosperous, which means that they eventually become the ones contributing charitably to the welfare of their less fortunate neighbours, as well as setting a good example of diligence and hard work.

    I’ll modify the old proverb with, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; empower him to fish, and feed him for life.” A Kiva loan does just that.

  2. Tom Newman says:

    Seems a great idea, but one being exploited by self-interested people as evidenced by this excerpt of article in The Vancouver Sun newspaper of January 19, 2008:

    http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html?id=b76ff000-c8e8-4789-9ed8-806df2c2945a

    During the year ending Sept. 30, 2006, GiveMeaning received $234,643 in donations for which it gave tax receipts, according to a financial statement filed with Canada Revenue Agency. Tom Williams said these are largely donations from individuals.

    It received another $730,350 from other registered charities. Williams said these donations were made specifically to pay GiveMeaning’s overhead.

    He refused to identify any of these donors. I found this strange: My sense is that, while some donors request anonymity, most registered charities or foundations publicly report where they are placing their money, not so much for recognition as for transparency.

    More generally, I do not understand why certain undisclosed charities would give money to pay overhead for what is essentially a charitable conduit.

    In the case of GiveMeaning, that overhead is disproportionately large. Of the $982,705 in total donations it received (and issued tax receipts for), GiveMeaning spent $666,070, or 68 per cent, on administrative expenses.

    Those expenses included $199,043 for professional and consulting fees; $153,646 for salaries, wages and benefits; $28,433 for advertising and promotion; and $24,019 for travel.

    I asked Williams whether he receives a salary. Well, yes, $90,000 per year. And his wife, country singer Jessie Farrell, who works part-time for the foundation “when she can,” gets $30,000. So together they collect $120,000 per year, plus expenses.

    After subtracting overhead costs, just over $300,000 was available for charitable purposes in 2006, but only $172,000 was actually given to charities (the remainder is still on the foundation’s books). That $172,000 represents just 17.5 per cent of total donations.

    But that’s not the end of it. Many of the charities that receive money have their own overhead. So the net amount available for true charitable purposes is even less.

    Williams insists that, whenever a person gives money for a particular charity, 100 per of that money gets to the named beneficiary. That may be true, but it does not mitigate the fact that the vast majority of the overall money collected during 2006 went to administration.

    Williams says this was due largely to start-up costs: “Yes, we have spent more than we have given away. Just like any other start-up business, it takes time to get profitable,” he said.

    He said the financial return for the year ending Sept. 30, 2007, which is just now being filed, will show a greater percentage of overall donations going to charity. We shall see.

    The Vancouver Sun January 19, 2008

  3. janeporter says:

    Tom,

    I agree with the stance that you should make sure that people get their money’s worth when giving but wouldn’t call off an organization based on one guy’s article. Look at both sides of a story (see below for Tom’s response) and then do your own research if you’re still iffy. I agree with one thing though – transparency and metrics are important – no matter what the business.

    Tom Williams has answered the article on his blog and you can find it here:

    http://www.givemeaning.com/blog/index.html

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