What is Right
When I first considered these questions, I felt that choosing to defend one organization’s criteria over another was meaningless. As I’ve read further into these questions, I’ve found this analysis to be less about who is right and more about what is right. With that being said, I will present a few different criteria that I found to be critical in selecting entrepreneurs or organizations to support.
First, the importance of the leader or leadership within any social venture cannot be overstated. In this regard, Ashoka leads the industry with their rigorous vetting process. They research the history, habits, vision, and character of their fellows long before inviting them to be an Ashoka fellow. It is impossible for any truly innovative and impactful idea to be materialized without a strong leader or group of leaders. When deciding who to support, my first priority is getting to personally know the person I would be supporting.
Second, I would measure the impact of the idea and favor those who have effective holistic approaches to these problems. There are thousands of “do good” organizations around the world. Many of these companies feel they are solving issues. In reality, however, they are merely minimizing the symptoms of the problem. Relative to these thousands, there are a proportional few who provide lasting impact. They achieve this standard of performance by attacking root causes of the problems they tackle. Their impact is lasting because their approach is holistic. In other words, they don’t just feed a child some fish. They teach the child how to fish.
This leads me to my third and final criteria, each organization must be secure. By secure I mean anything from financially sustainable to emotionally stable. Nothing unravels a the tapestry of a good idea faster than discouragement, poor financial management, or political division within an organization. (By political division, I’m referring to the poor leadership, not American politics). I must feel that this organization already has a strong enough foundation to endure the heat that comes with solving complex issues. I want a deep cost analysis and a thorough behavioral organization evaluation. The security of the investment rests heavily on the security of the organization.
In all, close evaluations of the leader, impact, and security of an organization are critical when choosing who to fund. I don’t claim that these three criteria are the only criteria necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of an investment. However, I do believe that these criteria can act as a foundation whereon all other questions regarding the investment can stand.
Any other suggestions?