Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spotlight: The Secret Millionaire

Photo credit: Strevo

I never thought about this, but giving away money is just as hard as applying for it. The Freakonomics blog was the first to bring this to my attention, when sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh asked readers What would you do with $70 Million?? I don't think I'd ever considered that it was hard to give away money. Excess funds have never been an issue for me, rather its been the latter.

On a recent flight through the UK, I stumbled upon a program called The Secret Millionaire. The show follows undercover millionaires as they search for worthy people and programs to distribute their money amongst (rumor has it that an American version will soon debut in these parts). I'd honestly never seen philanthropy from their point-of-view---the difficulties of figuring out who to trust, who would most benefit, and how to take a social investment furthest. At the end of each episode (I saw two), the millionaire finds several worthy causes and is humbled by the act of giving, and the recipients are most grateful and humbled by the act of receiving. Both describe it as life-changing. I wish most philanthropy was this personalized, and this gratifying.

There are many lessons to learn from this program. The viewer gets to see several points-of-view including that of the donor and that of ordinary people who are potential recipients. You also get exposed to the complexity of charitable giving or receiving. Even midway through my first episode, I found myself deep in thought. If you get a chance, I would urge you to check the show out (you can see episodes online, though I haven't figured out how!)

Here's a sample:

Writeup on Terry George


And an interview with Terry after:

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