A quick update on the direction of Gifthub, for those who are wondering. I believe that there is a need for a nonprofit membership association of funders, activists, and forprofits devoted to the public good, and supportive of grassroots efforts, whether ostensibly progressive, conservative or mainstream. I did propose such a project to my employer, but reasonably enough the vision seemed distant from a financial services firm's reasons for being. What I am doing, though, is working with Tracy Gary and others from the nonprofit world to develop protocols and materials that can be used by forprofit advisors to weath and by nonprofit fundraisers to help donors (who are also brothers, sisters, parents, citizens, human souls) be as generous as they want to be, given their many priorities. On January 20, Tracy and I will convene a focus group of nonprofits and my employer's forprofit professional staff to discuss specific deliverables, ones that will be effective, even if estate tax is repealed. At the very least, Tracy and I will push forward with a "Progressive Legacy" project to help progressives think strategically about the world they leave behind and how to inflect things now for the better. I am also talking with conservatives, who themselves are trying to foment a more vibrant grassroots civil society. Lenore Ealy of The Philanthropic Enterprise will attend the focus group, as will Dr. Larry Allums, director of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
So much planning for wealthy people today assumes that they are basically selfish, and that even their giving is really a disguised way to get more of something good, like tax deductions or status, or political power for themselves. Actually, I am sick and tired of that assumption, however true it may be in many cases. A few people are musical, some are poets, some are spiritual, most are parents, many are concerned (deeply concerned) citizens, not just consumers and pigs happy with their swill, and wanting more. As a teacher of the humanities, much less of financial services sales, I am not inexperienced in working with the dull, the dim, and the crass. I have preached virtue and wisdom to dull-witted sneers all my working life and won't stop now. Most, even of the earth bound, beneath their embarrassment, and defensiveness, have a better angel. They are better than they would have others believe, in our macho, consumerist world. Our job as teachers, whether of the arts, religion or giving is to inspire in each donor, or volunteer, or advisor, the best self of which each is capable, however mediocre, and asinine (as in donkies with long ears). You, Sir! I am talking to you. I said you were angel in the making. Go back to sleep.
We have honored what is worst in our nature, through television, spectacle, best sellers, game shows, advertisements for every vice, celebrities without couth, class, ethics, taste, or ideals. And now we and the planet reap that harvest. From right and left we can rally for something better. Peer pressure keeps us stupider than we are. I am done with it. Join us, if you wish, in discussion here, or via email. What we create will be largely transferable. (What we are teaching, preaching, coaching and applauding is "the unlicensed practice of the liberal arts," allied with professional expertise in financial and estate work. If you have skills and experience on either side of that line, you already have what you need to contribute to the revitalization of our culture; we just need to work together to help one another bring our gifts to fruition.)
As for the persona here, mine, do you recall Oscar Wilde's remark? "If you want a man to speak the truth, give him a mask." Never has that been more true. For truth, as Lear's Fool once said, "is a bitch who must to kennel." To speak truth, as an inconsequential person, a loser, to those who are Kings and Queens, or for that matter courtiers, counsellors, and machiavels, in our fallen world is more than a man's life or career is worth. Better, then, the jester's bells, and the madman's voice reverbing hollowing from his dumpster. Lets you laugh it off when I call you the greater fool, or mad in a more malign way, or loser, despite your success, your ermine and your armies, a loser in the eyes of God, and damned for all eternity, despite your wealth and protestations of piety. Though you bray him in a morter, you cannot separate the fool from his folly.
You can see, friends, this is not your usual suck up to wealth philanthropic consultation. We do mean to reform the wealthy no less than the poor and to hold them accountable for their own salvation, that their influence be positive and the results be for the good of all, or provide them with the spanking they so richly deserve - and one to grow one.