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July 2006

Self Reliance and Philanthropy

Could we say that philanthropists stand as "parents" to ordinary citizens, or those in need? That is, the parent has the position and the resources to make a positive difference, or to tyrannize, or both. The children are "one down," and at a certain point mingle gratitude and resentment. You can certainly see this dynamic. How then would a good parent behave? By limiting top down or governmental giving and encouraging peer to peer assistance and self reliance? (Schambra.)  By creating or supporting the infrastructure needed for every individual to find his or her own capacity for doing good? (Omidyar.) Or, better yet, to help each of us to find our collective capacity, as citizens, to organize for the greater good from the grassroots up? (My hope here at gifthub.) Such a grassroots revival would not be partisan per se. Those who identify as conservative and those who identify as progressive can make common cause around networking online and off for specific community-driven efforts that may require a few top down dollars, but which are actualized primarily by peer to peer networks and volunteer time. Democracy and civil society, or the quality of life in our neighborhoods, the quality of our lives, and of ourselves as moral beings is at issue. If the philanthropist is the "parent," then here is how the kids grow up to become community leaders in their own right, whether or not they come from money.

Rob Kall on Progressive Think Tanks

Kall suggests, in effect, Neocon think tanks have redefined political debate and policy. Much of what they do is admittedly shameful.  But it works. Therefore, progressives must do the same.  But what if you are good citizen, or God forbid, an honest person,  and don't want to fund a think tank sleazebag (current company excepted, Smoky Joe)? What if you are a legitimate intellectual, and you don't want to become a sophist, even if it pays well, even if someone is willing to ghostwrite your articles for you, even if you get to go on tv? What if you believe that even our relentlessly propagandized electorate is capable of deliberation, and deserve news and fact, not spin and sensationalism? Of course anyone so idealistic is destined for failure and ridicule from both sides of the aisle. But that is not my question. My question is what do you call someone who believes in democracy? Not neocon, not social conservative, not democrat, not republican, not apparently "progressive," as that term is being used by Kall. How about patriotic? As far as funding goes, how about we fund objective research, and accurate news?

San Diego Grantmakers on Philanthropy Blogs

Nice overview of philanthropy blogs at San Diego Grantmakers.  They note with an apparent straight face that I bill myself here at Gifthub as "Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families." They might have added that I do it pro bono publico and that my tutorials to date have been entirely non-consensual. It is considered in bad taste to improve the morals of wealth holders older than 18. You can spank only those below the age of consent, is my understanding, if you are a proper Head Master in the patriarchal mode. The parents of the little brats are off limits, no matter how urgent their need for moral discipline. And this goes for Social Conservatives too, though they endorse corporal punishment. They spank kids, but how much damage, comparatively speaking, can a kid do to the country, or the planet? The real opportunities for moral reform start right at the top. O yes, you can laugh at me all you want, but who else even offers to correct the morals of the present administration? Of Congress?  Of Council on Foundation members and staff? Of San Diego  Grantmakers? Are we to believe that all is fine and dandy in these august circles? Or are we in the nonprofit community, and we values-based planners, shirking our responsibility? Spare the rod and spoil the rich.

The Color of Money

Betsy Leondar-Wright:

America is a meritocracy, my father always told me. The harder he worked, the more money he got: clear cause and effect. But my father had a legacy that he couldn't see, a legacy he only got because he is white. He was a World War II-era veteran, and bought his first house with a Veterans Administration mortgage, which almost all veterans of color were denied. His parents got Social Security old-age benefits when the program excluded domestic and agricultural workers, which meant that most people of color did not qualify. Of course effort and talent make a difference in climbing the staircase to prosperity. But for most white men, the staircase has been an escalator powered by public assistance. Historically, for people of color, the escalator has been broken or has run backwards.

From The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide," by Meizhu Lui, Barbara Robles, Betsy Leondar-Wright, Rose Brewer, and Rebecca Adamson, with United for a Fair Economy. I showed the quotation above to Smoky Joe, the Executive Director of our sponsor, Rooster Foundation: Crowing in the New American Century. He rocked around in his chair laughing and slapping the desk. Then he had this to say,

People still write like this? I thought the last 60's liberals had died off, or gone into the mountains to prophesy to the wind. Yeah, so it is you and me; it is our fault women and minorities are so often losers. We white men are to blame for everything. Look at Candidia Cruikshanks, she is a woman. She is worth billions. Attorney General Gonzalez, he's - what do they call them? - Latino. Condi Rice - unless I am mistaken she is - what do they call them? - African-American. This is a great country if you just work hard and stop making excuses. Worst thing you can do is to pity the weak and pander to the shirkers. What minorities need is a) our moral example and b) a swift kick in the pants. The color of money is green. Tell your liberal friends to stop smoking banana peels and get a job. Get me a few copies of the book. We can use it to raise money for Rooster. "See, the whiney liberals are still alive. We ain't got 'em all yet. Give us another $100 million and we will stamp them all out and let Freedom ring from sea to shining sea."

Well, I am sure good money can be raised on both sides. It is all philanthropy one way or another.  "Making a difference," that is what it's all about. And "outcomes," its about outcomes too.  Values too. We all got values.  The main thing is to connect with the donor's values so they use strategic philanthropy to get outcomes.  When the outcomes include more political clout, repeal of onerous regulation and high taxes, the key outcome is more money for the donor, so you have a virtuous spiral of never ending good.  What liberals seem to miss is the part where you get your money back 1,000 fold through policy change and patronage in high places.  Pity and compassion and laying a guilt trip on white males is not going to get it done.   Unless we put the money and the time into organizing across class, gender and race for social justice, Rooster et. al will prevail.  The days of getting it done by guilt are gone.

Call for Bids and Quotes: Think Tank Slave Auction

If you are a think tank thinker or a funder of same, I would encourage you to provide me at Gifthub with any information about your needs or capacities, similar to a personal ad.

  • What conclusions do you want justified, if you are a funder? And, what are you willing to pay per word, attack ad, soundbite or frame?
  • If you are a think tank thinker, what do you charge for such services, promptly provided?

To start the slave auction, I have a bid from my funder here at Gifthub, Candidia Cruikshanks, Chair of Rooster Foundation: Crowing in the New American Century. She is looking to justify an "integral ownership society," subject to her direct control, similiar to a Corporation. The proviso is that your soundbite, white paper, policy briefing book, or framing statement must use the word Freedom at least twice in a prominent position. An American Flag decal will be provided. She has plenty. For your effort, if it moves the meter of public opinion, she will pay $150,000 plus lunch with her in the paddock out behind her office.  Dress code is Bit, bridle and Blinkers.  George Soros, we understand, in conjunction with Moveon will bid  $75,o00 for soundbites, attack ads,  and/or  sophistry to promote Open Society.  Other bids and offers, please. Every market clears at a price.   Get yours quick before the best thinker-slaves are all booked up.   

A word to funders: Please do not set the think tank slaves to bidding against one another in a race to the bottom.  Even we God-forsaken hacks need to make ends meet.  I set up Gifthub because no reputable think thank would have me.  Schambra laughed in my face when I asked for a job flogging Philanthropy and Civic Renewal for Bradley at Hudson.  Even Candidia, buff her reputation as as I will, won't tip me a dime. Times are hard. We all do what we must. If you want good thinking about giving, cough it up. No reputable thinker about philanthropy, is going to do squat for nothing. For nothing you get me, but what good will that do you?

The Gathering

About the Gathering:

In 1985, five people met for the first time in Arlington, Virginia, with a very simple agenda…They were each engaged in Christian philanthropy and were looking for a group of like-minded individuals to serve as a sounding board of peers, as an information resource, and a source of spiritual encouragement....The Gathering has now grown to include an annual conference for almost four hundred people. As well, small "forums" of individuals and foundations who have an interest in a very particular topic or issue meet throughout the year. The small "gathering" of friends has become an international network of individuals, families and foundations who share a common interest in Christian stewardship.

We welcome your interest in The Gathering. To attend one of our conferences or forums or participate in any of the email forums, conference calls or other activities of The Gathering, please contact us. The criteria for an invitation is an individual, family or their foundation should be giving a minimum of $200,000 annually to Christian ministries or have the capacity to do so. The Gathering is also open to staff and trustees of foundations, but Gathering activities are not open to staff of ministries (except by invitation).

The readings on the site should be of interest to any family concerned about giving in the context of family values, multi-generational wealth, spiritual commitment and civic responsibility.  Clearly, those who write for the site are actively engaged. Their words ring with "the voice of experience."