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How To Be Great At Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change the World




How To Be Great At Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change the World

Nick Cooney

ISBN: 978-1-119-04172-6 March 2015 Jossey-Bass 208 Pages

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Get ready to question everything you’ve been told about charity, and to find out how you can truly succeed at making the world a better place.

Many of us donate to charitable causes, and millions more work or volunteer for non-profit organizations. Yet virtually none of us have been taught what it means to succeed at doing good, let alone how to do so. In short, we’ve never been encouraged to treat charity with the seriousness and rigor it deserves.

How to be Great at Doing Good is a complacency-shattering guidebook for anyone who wants to actually change the world, whether as a donor, a volunteer, or a non-profit staffer.  Drawing on eye-opening studies in psychology and human behavior, surprising interviews with philanthropy professionals, and the author’s fifteen years of experience founding and managing top-rated non-profits, this book is an essential read for anyone who wants to do more good with their time and money.

  • Find out how Bill Gates and a team of MIT grads are saving thousands of lives by applying business principles to charity work – and how we can too
  • Peer inside our brains as we donate, and discover how the same chemical forces that make us crave junk food and sex can steer us toward bad charity decisions
  • See why following our passion and doing what we’re good at can actually doom our efforts to improve the world
  • Learn how two seemingly identical charities can have jaw-dropping differences in impact, and find out how to pick the best one when donating

Sure to generate controversy among non-profits and philanthropists who prefer business as usual, How to be Great at Doing Good reveals that a more calculated, effective approach to charity work isn’t just possible – it’s absolutely necessary for those who want to succeed at changing the world. 

Preface: Schindler’s Regret vii

1. Why Charity? 1

2. Doing Good or Doing Great? 9

3. Facing the “Brutal Facts” on How Much Good We Are Accomplishing 19

4. Chasing the Bottom Line: How to Do More Good for Less Money 37

5. Why Efficiency Means Everything for Donors (and Charities, Too) 63

6. How We Can Drive Our Favorite Charities to Succeed 83

7. Our Brains Don’t Want Us to Be Great at Doing Good, But We Can Outsmart Them 107

8. The Advice We Are Given About Charity Is Wrong—Here’s the Truth 131

9. Moving Forward with Humility: Admitting What We Don’t Know 151

10. Nine Steps to Greatness 165

Conclusion: The Joy of Great Charity 175

About the Author 177

References 179

Index 181

Brendan Kennelly wrote, ‘If you want to serve your age, betray it.’ But what does it mean to betray your age? It means expose its lies, humiliate its conceits, debunk its arrogance, and question its certainties. Nick Cooney does this exquisitely. I would like his book to be in every school library and private bookshelf. But most importantly, I would like his words to be inscribed on the hearts of everyone who looks at the face in the mirror each morning and resolves to do all they can to make life better for the powerless. I am full of admiration for this young man.”
– Philip Wollen, retired Vice-President, Citibank 

“Too often, charity makes us feel good but fails to do good. This timely, thoughtful book shows how our contributions can make a bigger difference.”
– Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success 

“Nick Cooney is great at explaining How To Be Great at Doing Good and I hope his book will be widely read.  Even more important, though, is that its key ideas should be widely practiced. Then the results will be great too - and Cooney and I agree that is what matters most.”
– Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, author of The Most Good You Can Do, and one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people 

“Doing good is something we could all get better at. This book is the blueprint. Nick Cooney uses the same tools we use at OkCupid math, logic, and analysis but to an end that could benefit us all. If you're serious about making the world a better place, start here.”
– Christian Rudder, Co-Founder of OKCupid, and author of Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking 

“Impeccably written and extremely insightful. With eloquence and expressiveness, Cooney gives us a practical guide to examining our charitable efforts, measuring their efficiency, and maximizing their and our impact. If you’ve ever felt you could do more to make the world a better place, this book is for you.”
– Shushana Castle, Securities Specialist, Sovereign Investments, and former Board member of the Clinton Climate Initiative 

"For anyone looking to make the world a better place, I highly recommend considering the arguments presented in How to be Great at Doing Good. We're accustomed to trying to get the most for our money, but donating is the area where this principle is perhaps most important and least appreciated."
– Holden Karnofsky, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, 

“Do you know that some charitable programs and organizations are thousands of times more effective than others (and not just because there are scams)? If you want to know who’s doing the most good, this book will give you the tools to make accurate assessments. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, this book will show you the way.”
– John Robbins, author of Diet For A New America, and President of The Food Revolution Network 

"Giving money to a social cause isn't merely a donation to charity; it's an investment. It won't yield a financial dividend, but the return-on-investment comes in the form of the kind of social change the investor wants to affect. Nick Cooney helps such philanthropists decide how they can get the biggest bang for their donated buck in this very worthwhile and clearly-written book. Anyone interested in using their financial resources to help make the world a better place will be better off for reading it."
– Paul Shapiro, Vice President, the Humane Society of the United States 

"This book will challenge everything you've ever been told about what it means to do good. Whether you work or volunteer at a non-profit, or just donate to one, this book is going to change the way you think about charity. Most importantly, it's going to leave you with the power to make an even bigger impact on the world."
– William MacAskill, Founder and Director, The Centre for Effective Altruism, and author of Doing Good Better 

“Wow, this is such a great book…Don't waste another dollar or a moment of your time chasing wistful dreams; get focused and make the profound difference you long to see by reading (and enacting) Cooney's brilliant thesis.”
– Kathy Freston, New York Times bestselling author of Quantum Wellness and The Lean