Want to better understand the mistakes charities make, so you can do a better job in your own philanthropic endeavors?

Philanthropy is a difficult and certainly imperfect science. You give to do good, right? Nevertheless, it is quite difficult to know when your generosity is actually working to accomplish your charitable goals and when you might be throwing money away.

With the yearly end-of-year run on charitable giving now behind us for 2013, and year-end stresses subsiding, this might be a good time to consider how to approach your philanthropy to do the most good.

Sometimes knowing what not to do is more instructive than a positive lesson. This is true in all of life’s lessons, big and small (think sticking your tongue on a frozen flagpole). When it comes to charitable giving, a recent article in Barron’s chronicles how well-intentioned charity often fails in its follow-through. The article, titled “Philanthropic Fiascos,” provides a few major real-life examples of incredible generosity squandered, including the failure of positive change in Haiti despite an incredible international outpouring of charitable funds.

More than anything, this article is really a reading list. If you are inclined to do the most good with your philanthropy, then books featured in the article may be worth your read.

Are you already frustrated with your charity of choice? Maybe you worry about inefficiency or ineffectiveness, or perhaps even its direction? How do you influence your charity of choice or how do you find a better way? Above all, how do you avoid aiding and abetting a philanthropic fiasco?

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