Better together: giving and investing in social causes is best done together

In his ground-breaking book, Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari argues we are all herd animals. We thrive when we’re surrounded by trusted allies who care about the same stuff. Common purpose creates a sense of safety.

This hasn’t change with modern sapiens. Yes, we have technology, more information and longer lives – but our behaviour today correlates to our behaviour 100,000 years ago. We love groups, communities, clubs, societies and parties. They provide a common purpose.

A growing phenomenon in the UK and around the world is the ‘giving circle’. At BeyondMe, we’ve now created over 150 ‘BeyondMe teams’ – groups of 7 professionals who join together and commit their time, skills and money to a charity project for one year. We’ve seen time and again how giving together complements social impact: bringing new ideas to the table, improving our knowledge and diversifying the skills available to deliver effective social impact.

We know more than most that the universal dynamics of a group can increase, improve and bring greater enjoyment to the act of giving and investing.

Unfortunately, we also know that this isn’t always recognised by potential givers when deciding to invest their time, skills and money: in a recent survey of 66 young professionals, BeyondMe found that a lack of time was the single biggest barrier stopping them from volunteering. Other perceived and real barriers often include:

Perceived Real
My skills can’t support this organisation The issue I care about is complex
I can’t trust charities I don’t understand how charities and social enterprises operate
My money won’t make any difference I’m not sure how to spot success

If you’re reading this and thinking… “Huh, some of those apply to me”, then you are not alone.

Giving and investing effectively is hard, even for experienced professional investors and philanthropists. So, consider this:

You care about gender equality. You are overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge and don’t know what you can do to help. Then, you are introduced to a group of people who share your passion for creating a world in which women and men enjoy equal rights. In this group you find a blend of backgrounds, interests and expertise in how this issue rears its head across different organisations and frontline services. You join together in the common goal of doing something that makes a meaningful difference. Roles emerge, a plan takes shape, opportunities arise and suddenly you’re finding a way to deploy your skills and capital to achieve a shared goal.

It seems like common sense – a logical conclusion of your desire to do good, but it is also backed up by more than just Yuval Noah Harari historical insights.

“Giving circles are made up of individuals who pool their resources and then decide together where these should be distributed.” Eikenberry, 2009

Dr. Angela Eikenberry, a brilliant researcher who has studied giving circles in the UK and USA, provides some fascinating insights:

  • Giving circles influence members to give more.
  • Giving circles influence members to give more strategically (research, vision for change, operating expenses, performance data).
  • Giving circle members give to a wide array of organisations.
  • Giving circle members are highly engaged in the community.
  • Giving circles increase members’ knowledge about philanthropy, nonprofits, and the comunity
  • Giving circles have a mixed influence on members’ attitudes about philanthropy, nonprofit and government roles, and political/social abilities and values.

If these points aren’t persuasive enough, then look to your own experience. As a co-investor your confidence is a group activity. As in philanthropic giving circles, the number of opportunities to support usually increases; the burden of due-diligence is shared; and co-investment in a shared mission creates a group knowledge-base and camaraderie that is hard to rival on your own.

The group dynamic goes a long way to reducing both the real and perceived barriers to giving and investing effectively. But, I also believe that a sense of duty and loyalty to the group you are a part of drives even greater participation in the cause you care about.

If our experience is anything to go by, the satisfaction and sense of utility you crave can be realised by giving and investing together.

Nick Mason is Head of Portfolio and Operations at BeyondMe, a movement of young professionals who give time, skills and money to charities and social enterprises.

 He will be in conversation with Numbers for Good Co-founder and CEO, Dominic Llewellyn in London on Thursday 10th November, from 6-9PM. To find out more and or book a free ticket in the discussion see BeyondMe’s events page.

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