5 Lessons Learned on Global Philanthropy

1) Go where nobody is. Find something that no one is doing, and do it. As in business, philanthropy is about problem solving – that’s true whether in a complicated real estate deal or lending money in Somalia or creating jobs in Colombia. Find a problem that no one is paying attention to, and bring your creativity and personal impact to the table.

2) Take the long view. Marcel Arsenault is successful in business because he is in it for the long game. He applies that same principle to philanthropy. The problem is that most endeavors are short-term, chaotic, political. Nobody thinks long-term. Donors must develop a broader perspective and a long vision for what they want to change. It’s not about the crisis of the day; that will pass. Have patience, put your head in the game, and stay in it.

3) Listen to whom it is you want to fund. Rather than putting your own needs or values on others, ask them first what they need, and listen to what they say. For example, the women we give to are putting their lives on the line. If we fund something they are doing, they could get killed. They know what they need more than anyone. We listen first and follow their lead.

4) Find the right partners on the ground. Sort through to find the people you can trust. Find partners that are hard working, driven, passionate, and honest. In business, I’ve been successful by leading and motivating the right partners. It’s the same in philanthropy. Find the right partners in the areas you want to fund—that’s the beginning and the end.

5) Know that it’s not easy work. If you go down the street and give money to your church, that’s easy. You write a check you feel good. When working or giving internationally, it’s challenging. The farther away you are from a country or project, the more difficult it is. However I like doing things that aren’t easy. I’m not going to avoid a problem because it’s hard. If we all do that, nothing gets done.

Thanks to Cynda Collins Arsenault and Marcel Arsenault for contributing to this section.