I spent some time with a good friend and business colleague a few weeks back. We started talking about some philanthropy work that he and his wife are doing for children with special needs. This struck a chord with me, as this is my wife's passion and she spent a number of years of her life working at a school for children with special needs. I mentioned to my friend that we were always amazed at the progress that the children could make, with the right tools and assistance. We had made it a habit of giving money to the school, to purchase more tools (computer equipment and other learning aids). This definitely had an impact on that school.
My friend went on to say that he was giving to an educational institution, to help them maintain their program to educate young adults to teach children with special needs. He added, "I always try to give where there is the most leverage". While leverage is perhaps the most overused word in the business world, his comment was the perfect example to me of leverage. If you can train young adults to teach these children, you can probably touch hundreds or thousands of children over a reasonable period of time. By contrast, if you give tools to one school (like I have done in the past), you probably can only impact a much smaller population of children (ie those that go to that school).
Now, giving is giving and helping is helping...and there is probably no wrong way to do it. But, this was a powerful lesson in leverage.