By Michael Quinn, Director of

On #GivingTuesday, there is a 24-hour period in which there is a temporary shift in our society from a focus on consumption to generosity as we hear about the amazing charity work that individuals, companies, foundations and philanthropists are funding around the world.

As the person who runs, a relatively small philanthropy department with a big vision, I am privileged daily to decide which causes we support. In a sea of worthy causes and charities, what elevates one over another? What criteria are people in my situation using and how do they make decisions? Some are choosing to support extreme poverty, others their local theater and others universities that have more resources than many countries. What gives?  Giving is personal, but coming from a highly data-driven company, I feel that we need a more organized and methodological approach to our giving. How can we enable our resources to have the largest impact?

Here is an idea, using three simple steps:

  1. List all the causes/problems in the world, then rank them objectively by priority and scale of problem.
  2. Next list all the nonprofits that work in each cause area, then rank them by effectiveness* in solving these problems. (*Not efficiency; that’s a separate thing.)
  3. Finally, overlay how much funding each charity gets from various sources.

What we end up with could look something like the below image, before layering on the funding amounts. Of course, it is an oversimplified idea, but even thinking through Step 1 would be valuable for many donors.  Getting to Step 3, you could easily see which areas are over and underfunded, and where your resources might make the greatest difference. Where would homelessness in San Francisco be on the scale compared to malaria, which still kills 1,000 children under age 5 every day, and how much funding are both getting from donors?

This simple framework could help us be more informed about our donations, instead of giving randomly, which is always based on good intention, but often not as impactful as we would like.  

So, this Giving Tuesday, I’m challenging us all to “Do Good, Better”- whether you’re a corporate philanthropist deciding where to gift millions or an individual with $100 to donate.

Below are examples of how MediaMath has leveraged our 1% Pledge to “Do Good, Better” by seeking out high-priority problems, and the effective charities with proven solutions to these problems, making maximum impact with our resources, using our heart and head. We suggest The Life You Can Save, whose mission it is to “raise annual donations to highly impactful nonprofits that reduce suffering and premature death for people living in extreme poverty,” as a great place to start.

We hope you can join us not only on this #GivingTuesday, but as you consider your philanthropic efforts throughout 2019, in doing good, better.