How do philanthropists choose their causes?

Everybody wants to be a hero – and that’s exactly what philanthropists are. But how exactly do they go about changing the world for the better?

Promoted by Tej Kohli Foundation
Friday, 14th August 2020, 8:40 am
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How do you plan on saving the world? It’s hard to know where to begin when answering this question, let alone put your words into action.

But philanthropists get asked this all the time and unlike the rest of us, they actually have an answer to the question. They combine business savvy with empathy and passion to create tangible solutions which make both the world and humanity better than they were before.

How exactly do philanthropists choose their causes? How do they make a difference?

1.) Locally vs globally

Philanthropists usually begin by choosing what scale they’re going to be operating on. After all, it doesn’t matter whether your contribution is big or small if you’ve made a difference to at least one person’s life.

Billionaire philanthropists will usually focus on global causes because they have room in the budget for them. For instance, the former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg donated 7.3% of his personal wealth to various causes, including education, the environment and improving city governments worldwide. Your average philanthropist has less of a reach and so operates on a smaller scale, focusing on improving local communities and funding SMEs.

2.) The power of passion

Philanthropists should always choose the causes that they feel most passionately about because this means they’re more dedicated to their plans and following them through. Una Osili, a professor of economics and philanthropy, calls this sustained engagement.

When your values, passions, and interests all align, nothing can stop you from changing the world. Personal ties to a certain cause are also what inspire philanthropists to choose one. For example, Tej Kohli's book goes into detail about his upbringing in Delhi, India. This later led to him becoming a humanitarian for corneal blindness, which is most prevalent in the slum communities of Delhi.

You can also see this in the case of actress Jameela Jamil, who is best known for activism regarding mental illness, racial inequality, and sexual assault.

3.) Focus on the long-term

Charities provide temporary relief to the symptoms of a social issue, but they don’t directly address the real problem. This is what successful philanthropists focus on doing with their work. They strategize for the long-term, considering the full life cycle of a social issue. They also avoid the temptation of donating in the moment because this wouldn’t be as cost-effective a solution.

Instead, they fund the healthcare organisations which are developing the cure for certain ailments; provide capital to construction companies that are working on rebuilding infrastructure in cities after a natural disaster; create foundations which focus on a sustained effort as opposed to a flurry of support, and so on.

They recognise making a difference is a long-term battle, so they stick to what they’re most passionate about, and are realistic about the scale of their ventures.