Charities & Cakes – A Recipe for Success

by Will Mactaggart
Richardson GMP

I still remember the first time I baked a cake. It was for my mom’s birthday the summer I was thirteen. It was one of my earliest lessons in the importance of having a clear set of guidelines, a workable plan, a strong foundation: whether you’re talking about baking, investing, or even running a charity, it really comes down to following the right recipe.

Building a good cake starts with a quality batter baked to perfection; then the layers, held together with a tasty filling that complements the texture and flavor of the batter for an irresistible final product. Even the fanciest decorating won’t make a poor batter taste better.

A recent report published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Michael Etzel, a partner at Bridgespan, a nonprofit consultancy, and Hilary Pennington, a VP at the Ford Foundation, highlights the trap that many charities fall into when they are not built upon, and supported by, a strong recipe for success. To extend the metaphor, too often charities that lack a good foundation find themselves having to focus on the ‘decorating’ rather than on a solid substructure to secure funding or support.

Like the cake, charities need a quality foundation on which their programs are built. They need to assemble an appropriate proportion of ingredients that might include basic overhead, proper compensation and development for their people, and cash reserves to deal with unforeseen challenges. Without addressing these needs, how will they maximize their impact now, and in the future?

Charities built on a solid base have the ability to innovate, the freedom to collaborate with others, and the capacity to build programs that increase their impact and support a more resilient community. As donors and community supporters, we have a responsibility to help them keep the lights on and the doors open.

Food for thought as you think about your own charitable giving.

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