More than a dollar

It’s a myth that money is fungible.

Ok, not really.  Money itself is, strictly speaking, fungible, but that doesn’t mean all money is equal.  Who it comes from speaks volumes about your organization, its worldview, and what you stand for.

Some of the pieces of the equation are obvious: money with a lot of strings attached is worth less than unrestricted money.  Money that will take you off mission is money you shouldn’t take in the first place.

But it goes deeper than that.  A few weeks ago I was in Ghana – we opened our Acumen West Africa office earlier this year.  One of our top priorities from the outset has been to raise significant philanthropic funding from West Africans, and by far the most humbling part of the trip was the chance to spend time with the three Ghanaian Acumen Partners who have already stepped up significantly to support our work.  Theirs is not just a vote of confidence from some of the most amazing business leaders in the country.  It also creates a completely different level of accountability, a completely different conversation what we mean when we talk about “our” work in West Africa.   It is truly ours, it is truly shared.

Recently, the UK government made headlines when it announced that it would stop giving aid to India after 2015.  In our lifetimes, the bright lines around which countries are rich and which are poor will fade.  By 2025 India could easily have 500 million people in its middle class and 500 million people in poverty.  Brazil’s GDP per capita could easily pass the $15,000 mark with 10 million or more people living in urban slums.

The time to start cultivating a truly global corps of philanthropists, philanthropists who support both local and global causes, is now.    There’s no doubt that today it is easier and cheaper for your organization to raise a dollar in New York or San Francisco or London than it is to raise it in Mumbai, Lagos or São Paulo.  But if you keep doing that, you’ll miss the boat.

Remember, all money isn’t equal.

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One Response to More than a dollar

  1. Hiya
    I happened to read your post above on the same day that someone drew my attention to this post by David Malone about how international banks launder drug money: http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2012/08/a-word-about-banks-and-the-laundering-of-drug-money/.
    Whether you agree with his analysis or not, I wondered what, if any, considerations you give to the businesses behind the philanthropists which earned them the money to give.
    (Apologies if you’ve blogged about this previously, I’ve only come across your blog relatively recently.)

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