by Bob Lupton Our world is getting smarter.
We have smart cars that can drive themselves, smart phones that can answer all our questions, smart watches that bring the world to our wrist. We have SMART planning (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-specific) that assures positive outcomes.
We have smart growth that turns our cities into desirable live-work-recreate environments. Seems like everything is getting smarter these days.
We like smart. Smart reflects our creativity, our intelligence. Smart keeps us on the cutting edge of innovation. It makes life safer, convenient, efficient.
In so many ways, smart makes our lives better. But there is one significant arena that smart has yet to impact. Charity.
Sure, some social media enthusiasts take stabs at it, like cause-related flash mobs and media-ignited fund-raisers. But these mostly end up being little more than flash-in-the-pan slacktivism. (Slacktivism is a newly coined word combining “slacker” and “activism” that describes "feel-good" measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist.)
Smart Charity is something altogether different from slacktivism. It goes far deeper than Twitter hits and Facebook friending. BOGO (buy one give one) charity doesn’t even come close.
Smart Charity is complicated, maybe as complex as rocket science, and has not yet been adequately defined, let alone implemented on any scale. But the discussion has begun.
So let me contribute a few observations that may lend some clarity to the charity industry as it inches its way toward greater effectiveness.
• Smart Charity is about impact – how the served are effected, not just the servers. • Smart Charity is mutually beneficial – everyone has something to contribute • Smart Charity is about outcomes – activity is not the same as results • Smart Charity engages the mind – not merely the heart • Smart Charity is responsible – insists upon due diligence • Smart Charity is wise – rejects simplistic solutions • Smart Charity is comprehensive – understands complexities, the inter-connectedness of life • Smart Charity is holistic – resists piecemeal approaches • Smart Charity is personal – efficiency does not equal effectiveness
Unlike the smart movement that strives to make everything easier and more convenient for us, Smart Charity will likely do the opposite. It will require more effort, be more costly, and consume more time than either the traditional or slacktivist approaches to charity. This is doubtless why the smart industry is so slow in entering the charity market.
The good news is that a new generation of millennials is at least as compassionate as their parent’s generation, and they are beginning to ask the right questions. They appear to be less inclined toward lazy charity (writing checks to fund traditional programs) and much more interested in accountable charity (hands-on, personal involvement). And besides, they are really smart.
There is reason to be hopeful that Smart Charity will eventually become a dominate force in the charity market, edging out the lesser forms that tend to do more harm than good.