If you are even the slightest bit familiar with Buy1GIVE1, you know that one of the basic tenants of the organisation is utilising the ‘power of small’: tiny giving amounts creating an immense impact. I was so drawn to this concept that I left my job as a TV news producer at the end of 2015, packed up my bags in California, and moved to Singapore to join this inspiring team as their new content director.
It is indeed a wonderful idea that such small contributions can have such a huge impact, and I had the privilege of witnessing this my first week on the job during B1G1’s 2016 Study Tour in Mumbai. I don’t want to say that these impacts were incredible, because they were tangible and real…and I believe extremely ‘credible’ would be the more appropriate descriptor. Take the e-Learning systems (computer assisted education) installed by Dr. Madhav Sathe’s team at Bombay Mothers. We visited two rural villages outside of Mumbai, one that had the system installed a year prior, and one that was brand new. The children who had been exposed to the programming for a full year were noticeably more confident, and able to express their lessons to us. Remarkable.
Seeing B1G1’s projects in action answered ‘how’ the power of small works, but it’s the reasoning behind ‘why’ it’s preferable over large contributions to single organisations that really drives the concept home for me.
I am an eternal skeptic about methods but an overarching optimist when it comes to people and goals. And the power of small caters to both of these apparently contrasting attributes. The latter is described above, but how it satisfies skepticism? Because it is for realists—it is just so logical.
Whether it’s tackling climate change or primary education, or feeding the hungry—there is usually not a single solution to a problem. Despite what some say, ‘one size fits all’ models should be treated with caution. There are almost always unintended consequences, and it’s just common sense to not put all your eggs in one basket. We diversify our financial portfolios to mitigate risk. The same thing should be true for giving. We have a good idea of which non-profits will produce positive results, but nothing is for certain. By having so many giving options for so many businesses, we enable our ‘portfolio,’ if you will, to have the maximum net benefit. For the whole wide world.
While on the Study Tour, I noticed one of the values that all our affiliated non-profits held dear was running their operations like a business, on efficiency. They are on the ground, and are working on these small, localised problems everyday. They see what works and what doesn’t. It’s comforting to know that our businesses’ contributions aren’t just thrown at a problem, and that accountability comes a lot easier when it’s on a smaller scale.
It’s possible that they won’t all have a 100% success rate at completely solving what they set out to accomplish. Or maybe they will, and my optimistic side will completely crush my internal skeptic. It doesn’t really matter though, because when you look at the aggregate, the global impact is simply amazing.