Ready, Fire, Aim! - Mihail's Public Blog: Ellison on philanthropists demanding results, accountability

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ellison on philanthropists demanding results, accountability

As we are beginning to have similar conversations about figuring out where our contributions can have the most impact -- whether in the arena of equal rights for all, HIV research, or cultivating the best people for the highest offices in California and the United States -- this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required) on Larry Ellison's expected $115M gift to Harvard quotes Ellison expressing the same concerns.

It is time that we as donors, no matter how large or small, asked for specific results from the nonprofits that we support (and an explanation of how our contributions are being spent strategically on the most critical issues). It is no longer enough to simply give money to those that do good work. It is time to give money where it will have the most impact today.

"We're going to monitor the return on investment in different medical programs," Mr. Ellison said. "It's very easy to say, 'We should invest in this, we should invest in that.' But how good, in terms of fighting malaria, are mosquito nets infused with pesticide? What's our return on investment for cleaning up water? What's our return on global warming? It's important to look at every dollar spent on health care and the return on that."

..."One of the great problems of philanthropy is that we measure the wrong thing," Mr. Ellison said. "We measure the inputs, not the outputs. The obligation of the philanthropist should not end when the check is written. There should be some accountability for how that money was used, and how much good was done."

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