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April 2007

The New Conservative Talking Points on Charitable Giving

When partisan thinkers do philanthropy studies, you know there will be knife concealed in the sleeve of the academic regalia.  The new talking points for conservatives philanthropy pundits are these:

  • Giving is good for people and society
  • Government funding crowds out philanthropy
  • Taxes should be cut
  • Liberals should give more to fill in the holes left by tax cuts
  • We should all Praise God.

There is more to it than that, but you can see how this will go.  Last week I was a facilitator with Tracy Gary (a known liberal) of two networks, one of liberal heirs and progressive thinkers; the other a main street mostly Christian network of socially conservative, self-made, financial advisors. The lovely part is that after a little bewilderment, and a few wary glances, we evolved towards not only mutual respect, but civic friendship. A number of quite specific working relationships resulted. So, I am here to say, "Nice, knife, fella, please check it at the door." Be charitable, Mr. Brooks.

Blogging from COF - As from Another World

Sean Stannard-Stockton, blogging from inside the Council on Foundations Conference, writes about new media and philanthropy.  I sense in his post  the difficulty of holding the world of established foundation philanthropy and the world of informal new media in mind at once.  Few are denizens of both worlds. Who is a guest in whose world? Who has positional authority? Who controls what information flows? Whose "web" of contacts is most resourceful? For now, of course, established philanthropic funders in tightly bound networks, behind firewalls, are the powers that be.  But Sean on the inside/outside is signaling change, albeit modest for now. That COF has welcomed bloggers into the inner sanctum is promising - but then again, if Queen Elizabeth can knight Elton John, then COF can't go too far wrong by countenancing a Stannard-Stockton.  How elites preserve themselves in the face of rapid change is an interesting topic.

My Two Friends: Two Quite Different Approaches to Social Entrepreneurship

In the wake of the Skoll Conference at Oxford comes the NYU Conference also on Social Entrepreneurship.  Maria Nardell and Josh Moore provide an excellent commentary.

To put the conversation about social entrepreneurship in a more personal context: I was speaking in the last few days with two friends. The first is a Harvard MBA, in mid career. He has had a diverse and successful history in business, often with a social focus, and he has been active in progressive philanthropy. As an entrepreneur he is a visionary. (I sometimes ask him, when he gives his plans for the future, "OK, Napoleon, you and what army?") He said to me recently, "You know, I want to do good. I have looked at nonprofit jobs and they don't pay anything. Plus nonprofits so often are disorganized feel good efforts. I want scale, and social results, and I want to make a decent buck. The investors I talk to feel the same way."  By contrast, and it is an interesting contrast, the second friend is also a social entrepreneur, or change agent, but in the spirit of, say, a visionary like Susan B. Anthony.  (Her nose wrinkles when she hears the biz-school buzz words. "Lucre," as in filthy lucre, is a word she might use, or a word that would make her smile in recognition.) For her money is an encumbrance. She lives simply, gives away as much as she keeps, and follows the Biblical injunction to be like the birds of the air, not worrying about scale or businesses plans, or her own finances.  Both of these friends are acknowledged leaders, both are people I admire, and whose friendship I cherish. Both could be described as "elite," in that both are highly educated and well-connected. Both are passionate about social  justice and about democracy. Both are from families in the public eye. Both are the expression of a multi-generational commitment in their respective families to "giving back," "paying it forward," public service, and to being a good person, and a role model in a difficult and dangerous world.  I find that the two approaches are not "rivalrous," though one person may be passionately devoted to one, and disparage the other. I had the good fortune earlier this week to introduce my two friends to each other face to face. I think they may well become friends. We need more of both approaches; I wish both friends well.

Advisors in Philanthropy Conference

Attended The Advisors in Philanthropy Conference. Was impressed with the quality and diversity of the presentations. Was also impressed with the membership.  Yes, the most common profile was a life insurance salesperson or investment advisor using philanthropic tools and techniques to serve client values and reposition taxes to charity. But the perspective was broader than I expected, the audience more diverse, and there was a real undercurrent of idealism.  AIP could be called a trade association, but is rather small, more like a club. Many of the upscale fee-only professional philanthropy advisors (counseling clients on strategic grants) were not in attendance. They might come by as a speaker, but not as a member. Clearly, too, donor and donor networks were not represented. Attorneys specializing in philanthropy were under-represented, as were planned giving people. 

As an experiment, Tracy Gary and I organized a small pre-meeting, drawing the leadership of AIP together with members of Tracy's mostly progressive donor networks, some advisors from the family office arena, philanthropy educators, and some thought leaders in social venture investing.  Would the established philanthropic players, the MBA social venture types, and the financial advisors to Main Street clients mix? Yes, they did, with some degree of mutual astonishment. To what purpose? Mapping the field, making connections - beyond that I am not sure. But the responses all around were positive and the feeling was that it should be attempted again.

Non-Profit Leadership Gap?

Heather looks with optimism on the future leadership of the nonprofit sector. Boomers may stick around longer than predicted. They may retire from business leadership positions and enter the sector. Some younger up and coming non-profit leaders (Heather's generation), may leave, but some will stay.  "But, but, but," urges the Boomer ego, "What can ever fill the leadership gap that I will leave?" ("A trained dog, a jumping frog, maybe a seal," murmurs, the rising generation. Sadly, it is not like the Boomers are leaving this world better than we found it. If ours was leadership, thank Heaven it is waning. Ten more years of it would crash the planet.)

New (Meek) Voices of Philanthropy

Trista Harris

This blog covers issues of generational change in the philanthropic sector and more broadly trends in philanthropy. This is a wide range of topics from how professional training programs in philanthropy are creating a younger applicant pool for foundation positions to how Google is revolutionizing the concept of philanthropy. We are in a unique period of time where baby boomers are retiring and Gen Xers have made it clear that they are not content with keeping the status quo in the nonprofit or foundation sectors. I believe we are in an important period of rapid evolution in the philanthropic field, which is very significant for a field has been traditionally stagnant (or based on years of history and tradition, depending on your perspective). I will use this blog to document that evolution.

Trista Harris "... is a Program Officer with a community foundation in Minnesota. Trista provides leadership on the foundation’s initiatives related to civic engagement and philanthropy. She is also responsible for a broad ranging grantmaking portfolio, which reflects the foundation’s interest in comprehensive solutions to community issues." 

Trista's blog is premised on the idea that Boomers are retiring and that new leadership must emerge for social change and civic engagement. She may find that Boomers are tenacious. The world has revolved around us from birth. Even in our dotage we will presume that it is all about us.  "What's next?" asks a financial services campaign aimed at Boomers. What's next is that we retire, volunteer, take Board seats and push you around, Trista, same as always, only worse because now we are old and crotchety. If God did not love us more than you, He would not have created more of us than you. Your generation is an after-thought. A mere Echo of ours.

Seriously, it is great to see a new generation taking over, and doing it on-line as well as behind the walls of the foundation. My advice in dealing with Boomers is stick it to them hard -- insults, insubordination, and a fist raised.  Like we Boomers did in our day. Let me tell you about the time....

Instead of "documenting" the "evolution" of social change why don't you promulgate a revolution? Or won't your Boomer boss let you? You might ask nicely. Maybe he will say, "yes."