Beeston’s Blog: Emma Beeston’s latest blog is entitled “Beyond Overwhelm: the Role of the Philanthropy Adviser”

We regularly feature incisive and thought-provoking blogs by Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy, and Sarah Taragon and Stephen Woollett of Clarity CIC, all of whom are vastly experienced in supporting the charitable sector.

Today’s blog is by Emma and is entitled “Beyond overwhelm: the role of the Philanthropy Advisor“.

The Emma Beeston Consultancy advises grant-makers, companies and families on creating and implementing giving strategies. As a Philanthropy Adviser, Emma guides philanthropists through all the options so that resources can be allocated wisely, bringing the most impact and reward. If you’d like to talk to Emma about her work, she’s available for a free 30-minute consultation via her website.

“Beyond overwhelm: the role of the Philanthropy Advisor”

“Overwhelm, that sense of ‘bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something’ is not a good feeling. And yet, it is a common feeling in philanthropy – both for those facing burn-out working in the field who are inundated with requests for help; and those philanthropists who want to help but are overwhelmed by the number of options to do good and the enormity of the social and environmental issues.

“Overwhelm is uncomfortable. It makes us feel hopeless and helpless. A natural reaction is avoidance. For philanthropists this can mean paralysis and inaction – it can be so hard to work out what to do for the best that it seems easier to do nothing. But that means money not being put to good use.

“Philanthropy advisors, who like me, want to see more money channelled to those making a difference, have an important role to play in moving donors beyond overwhelm. Here’s how we can help:

1. Reducing the options.

“The philanthropy advisor can work with a donor to find a focus. Asking questions that add parameters (for example a region, approach, theme) results in something more manageable. The advisor also brings available knowledge (from research and community voices) about where the gaps are and what is needed.

2. Provide a reality check.

“A philanthropist seeking the one right choice in a sea of potential options is embarking on an impossible task. They would need to assess every cause and non-profit against multiple criteria in a constantly changing world to decide the best use of their funds. Donors are never working with perfect data and the advisor can let them know that this is the reality.

3. Promote collaboration

“The world’s problems are bigger if you think you have to tackle them on your own. Joining with others through giving circles, funder collaborations and pooled funds, brings reassurance to the donor that others decided to help in the same way. It also amplifies the difference they can make by joining resources with others. The advisor can introduce and help make connections with these collective efforts.

“In summary, the only way to reduce the feeling of overwhelm is to move from doing nothing to doing something. By making the task manageable, reassuring the donor that there is no one right answer and reminding them that they are contributing to a collective effort to do good, the advisor encourages a donor to give.

“The good thing about overwhelm is that it stems from caring. (Think of the opposite: being underwhelmed is to be un-moved.) The advisor can build on this and help the philanthropist recognise that whilst they cannot do everything, giving something matters. Focusing on what they can do creates the energy to act and gets money into the world to do some good – suddenly drops in the ocean can become a tide that brings about sweeping change.”

Image: Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy. If you’d like to read more of Emma’s excellent blogs, please visit the ‘Insight’ section of her website.