Provocateur logo2.png


Andrea McManus, ViTreo Group Inc
December 18th 2018

We are inundated each time we read, watch or listen to the media with messages of gloom and doom. It’s easy to become discouraged and begin to believe it’s the only conversation. Before you despair of any hope for mankind, here is some (true) news that tells a different story.

Our World in Data reports “According to the International Poverty Line, people are considered to be in 'extreme poverty' if they live on less than $1.90 per day, or the equivalent amount…It is very important that fewer people live in such extreme misery, and thankfully that has happened. Today, about 10% of the world population lives in extreme poverty, while in 1990 the corresponding figure was about 37%. Two centuries ago almost everyone in the world lived in extreme poverty.” (Our World In Data Poverty Lines)


In June 2017, the Foundation for Economic Education published an article with this headline:

“We’re Seeing Massive Reductions in Global Poverty - Today, one person escapes extreme poverty every second.”

The Provocateur Art - Blog (17).png

The article continues to say, “Only since about 1970 has there been a rapid growth in the number of people living above the extreme poverty line and a drastic reduction in the number of people living under it. In 1970, about 60 percent of the 3.7 billion people living on this planet were still relegated to extreme poverty. Now, the figure is under 9 percent.

Today, one person escapes extreme poverty every second, thanks to better economic systems, improved knowledge, and cheaper technology in most areas of the world….The United Nations projects that another 79 million people will climb above the extreme poverty line by 2020.” (Massive Reductions, Foundation for Economic Education)

Another marker for poverty reduction and better lives is a reduction in illiteracy rates. Literacy builds a foundation for a life with more choices and freedom from violence and oppression. Although there are still far too many people, the highest percentage of which are women, who remain illiterate, there has been a significant improvement over the last several decades.

In September 2017, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics reported “The data show remarkable improvement among youth in terms of reading and writing skills and a steady reduction in gender gaps. 50 years ago, almost one quarter of youth lacked basic literacy skills compared to less than 10% in 2016.” (UNESCO Literary Rates Continue to Rise)


I also feel optimistic about the future when I see stories such as this one about organizations like The Gates Foundation, which has the ability to affect change because of the impact of its large gifts - in May 2018, the foundation made a significant shift in its philanthropic endeavours because of research results showing the affect poverty had on the ability to obtain an education.

“The Gates Foundation is getting into anti-poverty work in the United States in a big way with a four-year, $158 million initiative. The move is a significant departure from the foundation’s past domestic endeavors, which focused almost exclusively on education…

‘Though the initiative represents a pivot, Gates’ commitment to education played a major role in pushing the foundation in this direction,’ CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann told Inside Philanthropy. 

‘We got into this space because of all the years we worked in education,’ Desmond-Hellmann said. ‘Education leaders told us that to give students the best chance at success, we would have to engage with the problems that face students outside the classroom.’” (Gates Foundation Shifts To Address Domestic Poverty, Inside Philanthropy)

From a January 2016 Thought Economics article Charity, Philanthropy and Society, which included interviews with several high profile philanthropists including Jeff Raikes (Founder, Raikes Foundation and former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Craig Newmark (Founder, craigslist and craigconnects), Michael Holthouse (Entrepreneur & Founder of Holthouse Foundation for Kids & Lemonade Day) Jacquelline Fuller (Director, and Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation), among several others:

“At every stage of our species’ development, ‘giving’ has been with us. Whether one sees this phenomena as evolutionary (manifest from pro-social behaviour) or spiritual (an urge from deep within our souls), the fact remains that giving- in all its forms- has been one of the greatest factors in the success of humanity and spans all the domains of ‘human’ assets; the intellectual (knowledge, experience, emotion and insight), economic (wealth in all its forms), cultural (arts and language), social (time, group structures) and even biological (from simply strength to the very body in entirety).

In reality, there are few (if any) beings on our planet who have not been touched in some way by giving (regardless of whether that is a small act of generosity from a stranger, or being lifted out of poverty with a microloan), and few (if any) who could argue-away the profound legacies left by the outcomes of man’s urge to improve the present and future position of his society. Without some form of giving, many of mankind’s greatest achievements simply would not have occurred. Giving is also one of the few activities mankind often undertakes without the geographic, cultural, social and political prejudices applied to other aspects of life.”

This quote from the same article really spoke to me - “Giving, like love, is an element of both charity and philanthropy; love sometimes is left out, but giving is essential” writes Robert Bremmer. “Getting is important, too, but giving comes first. …In addition to tangible things, we give- or withhold- love, trust, friendship, encouragement, sympathy, help, and advice. What we give to alleviate the need, suffering and sorrow of others, whether we know them or not, is charity. What we give to prevent and correct social and environmental problems and improve life and living conditions of people and creatures we don’t know and who have no claim on us is philanthropy” (Charity, Philanthropy and Society, Thought Economics)

Xmas Dove2.PNG

This time of year is referred to by some as the ‘season of giving’ and it’s often a time for many of us to reflect on the past 12 months and to make plans for the next twelve. As fundraisers and nonprofit organizations, our goal is to foster change and to encourage giving.

I hope what I’ve written gives you pause in this time of disruption and uncertainty. And underscores the value of the work we do and continue to carry out. Philanthropy – giving - has historically and will persist as a critical way to make the world a better place for all of us. When we give, we also receive.

Please share your stories of the positive changes you have seen because of philanthropy - I would love to hear them.

Best wishes for the holiday season from the ViTreo Group!

If you enjoyed today’s blog article, you will find our latest BrainTrust Philanthropy podcast on Global Disruption In Philanthropy: What To Expect In 2019 interesting.



Andrea McManus, Chair, Board of Directors, Partner
ViTreo Group Inc

Andrea McManus is a Partner with ViTreo with over 30 years’ experience in fund development, marketing, sponsorship and nonprofit management. A highly strategic thinker and change maker, Andrea has worked with organizations that span the nonprofit sector with particular focus on building long-term and sustainable capacity. 

Andrea McManusComment