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What kind of philanthropist are you?

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How ambitious should we be when donating money to a cause? There are different approaches to to doing good, and you might find you have more affinity with a specific one. Let’s take an example: if you had £100,000 and wanted to tackle homelessness – people who have no access to shelter and are sleeping rough on the streets – what would you do? Discover below how venture and other philanthropists would approach the same challenges in different ways.

The community philanthropist

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The Community Philanthropist will look at the cause and effect of homeless people in the community. They will ask if these people are from the community, what their affect on the community is and how the community might rally to respond. 

They might spend their £100,000 on some community infrastructure (co-funding a homeless shelter with the local authority) or on a community programme to encourage families to offer rooms to young people at risk of becoming homeless so that everyone in their community has a safety net from homelessness.

The effective altruist

The Effective Altruist will look at evidence and value. They will start by asking "What are the options for interventions to reduce homelessness?" This will lead them to hear about the need to provide mental health support, family reunification, temporary housing, permanent housing, jobs and income, support upon leaving prison and others. They will identify the cost of each intervention and multiply it by the success rate in order to make a decision. They may learn that providing housing has a high success rate (80%) but costs £6,000 per person per year and is a recurring cost, whilst supporting people when they leave jail with intensive mentoring has a 50% success rate and costs £5,000 as a one-off cost. 

They will decide that this means that the intensive mentoring for people leaving jail is the best way for them to spend their next £100,000 in order to reduce homelessness.

The venture philanthropist

The Venture Philanthropist will look at the best performing homelessness charities and ask why they are not prevalent in every corner of the country. They might identify that the top charity doing the best work does not have an effective sales operation or strong enough proof of their impact. 

They would invest their £100,000 in a sales person and materials, an independent impact assessment for that charity and head hunters to find some new trustees with experience of scaling national organisations.

The Systems Changer will trace the steps of failed systems of care, education, employment, benefits, social services, mental health services and criminal justice

The systems changer

They Systems Changer would ask the question ‘what has been the experience of this person that has led to them becoming homeless?’ They will trace the steps of failed systems of care, education, employment, benefits, social services, mental health services and criminal justice and build a true understanding of the ecosystem that has led to this person to the place they are at. From there they will gather people experiencing homelessness with commissioners of services, frontline workers and charities to try to see where the gaps in current services were and build a relationship between those groups to better understand each other and why they have cumulatively failed to set this person on a path to success.

The £100,000 will be spent on mapping, facilitation and ultimately practice improvement within the existing system so that the next person does not experience the same failures.



If you are looking for support on your philanthropy journey, Ten Years’ Time who helped put on yesterday’s event works to help new philanthropists really understand the topics they want to work on and become expert in them. Check them out!