Philanthropy’s Moral Compass
Stephen Covey once famously wrote, “There are three constants in life — change, choice and principles.”
This is true in philanthropy, as well. The choices you make will decide the survival of your organization and its effectiveness in reaching out to people in need. Your ability to anticipate and adapt to change will determine whether your organization flourishes or slows. Above all, the foundation of your organization should include a core set of principles.
Often embodied in a mission statement, principles are a compass for everyone involved in a philanthropic organization, from leadership to the volunteers in the field. Principles set expectations and encourage everyone to aim for — and achieve — high goals.
Fundamental principles are not meant to constrain your choices, but rather to give clear purpose and definition to your organization. The balance between flexibility and principle was best summarized by Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
For the Moez and Marissa Kassam Foundation, these are the essential principles we established at the very start:
The Moez and Marissa Kassam Foundation follows a policy of openness and pledges clear, consistent, and timely communication with the public, applicants, grantees and donors.
The Foundation team engages leaders from a wide range of social, economic, political and cultural sectors to grow the impact of the Foundation’s work.
Thought leaders, entrepreneurs, writers, artists and front-line organizations are some of the important partners the Foundation seeks out for inclusion in its important missions.
Accountability is a core principle that runs parallel to transparency. A foundation is accountable for much more than each dollar it receives; ultimately it is accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of its programs. This trickles down to each family, group, and person it attempts to uplift and support.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion is very closely related to partnership. Including a wide range of communities and perspectives in the Foundation’s work not only demonstrates respect, but also magnifies the difference the foundation is able to make. The strength of partnerships with varying groups also allows an organization to expand and ensure the inclusion of groups that may have once been neglected.
Strategic Focus and Impact
Strategic focus and impact are, in the end, the clearest test of any foundation’s value. Every philanthropist has a dream, but ideals and noble goals are not enough. Philanthropic organizations are ultimately measured by their impact, and their effectiveness is based largely by the ability to focus on the mission, and the ability to choose useful methods that can bring success to the mission.
With the trusted guidance of a moral compass, a philanthropic organization can navigate any challenge, and arrive at once-unimaginable destinations. If the compass is lost, it’s only a matter of time before the organization finds itself adrift. Constantly reflecting on the purpose of the charity, and the many individuals and families who are lifted by its work, will ensure that an organization stays on course, always headed North.