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March 2008

Needle Through The Balloon

Imagine, Ian, that philanthropy is a big balloon, inflated. Now imagine satire as a needle, wet. Did you know that if you do it right, you can puncture the balloon with that needle, while leaving all the air inside until the needle is withdrawn? Yes! But it is not as easy as it seems. A demonstration is here. Try it! Warning, if it pops you are fired. (Helpful hints here.) Now, go fetch the needle. See what you can do with the lastest issue of The Chronicle.

No Satire, Please, We're Philanthropists

Ian Wilhelm at Give and Take, the blog for The Chronicle of Philanthropy: the Newspaper of the Non-Profit World, on a recent flap:

After less than a month, a blog that made fun of the nonprofit world and gender roles has shut down. Men in Philanthropy, which promised to recognize “the vast, marginally relevant, contributions men have made to the world of philanthropy” has been “removed,” according to its Web site host. While some said the site was in poor taste — one commenter on Give & Take called it “insulting and stupid” — Phil Cubeta, author of Gift Hub, writes that the short-lived effort brought some badly needed laughs to philanthropy. “Another fine satiric site goes dark,” he writes. What do you think? Do we need some blogs poking fun at philanthropy?

Taking a cue from Ian, I decided, rather than hazarding an opinion of my own (and so exposing myself to potential criticism from my boss, funder, or readers), I would simply ask a question. So, I consulted Senator Dick Minim (D. MA), a former Board Member for the Council on Foundations, and asked how he felt about "some blogs poking fun at philanthropy." He said, twirling his pinz nez on its gold chain, "Why, Phil, you know that laughing folly into good humor and good sense is a most unsporting proposition; a gentlemen just knows not to do that. Why consider the effect on poor Mummy. She almost choked on her crumpet. The last time people tried satire, in England, I believe it was, in the Augustan period, look what it led to. A Revolution here in Colonies. And it has been quite downhill ever since."

Changemakers Enters the Blog World

Changemakers now has a blog:

Whether you call it  “social justice philanthropy” or “social change philanthropy” or you don’t call it anything at all, the “it” has existed in a bit of bubble. Let’s  break it out of the bubble and welcome it into the 21st century. To that end, we need vibrant discourse in the field of philanthropy about its meaning and relevancy (or lack thereof) — and we need it now.

I do hope Changemakers' blog will help get the conversation about social change philanthropy going with a wider audience. If I (as a white, heterosexual, Fool-identified male) could have one wish it would be that progressives would drop cliquish identity politics, and woozy human potential stuff, for an inclusive and externally focused, action oriented, vision of social justice, human rights, civil liberties, media reform, and environmental sustainability. Once we all flourish; we each flourish. By diversity let's mean partnering with business people, straights, white males, people from the heartland, and evangelicals, among others, in the fight for a more vibrant, just and sustainable democracy.

The Work of Folly (A Word to the Wise)

Phil_cubeta_3 Over the years, frankly, whether as an Apprentice Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, or here at Gifthub as Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, I have tried every excuse there is. I have hidden behind the Happy Tutor in a mask. I have made Carnival in imitation of Rabelais. I have passed myself off in all seriousness as a Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families. I have explained away my whoredom in Wealth Bondage by pretending to be Born Again as a Values-based Planner. I have wandered Dallas naked at noon, in the spirit of Diogenes. I have spanked, flayed, cauterized, and operated upon Folly. I have played the Good Doctor and asked her to raise her skirts. I have followed the advice of Horace and coated the bitter pill of truth in honey. I have followed him as well in holding the distorting mirror of satire up to nature, human nature in particular, until she shrieks in horror at her own face. I have tried being as as Earnest as Oscar Wilde. I have in his honor constructed my own Defense of Lying. But in the end all that works is to Praise Folly solemnly as a Fool for the approbation of the Wise. The Feast of Fools (the Feast of the Circumcision, or Feast of Asses) was once a high holy day. Today we who hold such festivals, such mystery rites, are pretty well marginalized. I have seen the satiric sites about philanthropy come and go, and talked at length with those who have been forced to take their sites down by their immediate superiors for fear of reprisal by the Wise and the Good, or at least the Rich and Powerful. Wealth and our Bondage to it is not a subject for polite discussion, nor for satire. "Truth is a bitch who must to kennel," as Lear's Fool said.  We Trusted Advisors to Wealthy Families must all play the Fool in our own way. "Here is my way," as Seneca said, "where is yours?" (Seneca by the way, committed suicide on the request of his Patron, Nero, as I recall. There are no easy ways to get this job done, and even the best of us generally come to a bad end.)

The Emblems in this Gallery tell a story and point a moral. See if you can make sense of my Folly.

Bare Naked Philanthropy?

Diogenes Would philanthropy be more effective and efficient if fundraisers, advisors, and donors got naked? You could make a good case for that, really, maybe starting with King Lear whose estate plan only came together once he got naked on the heath with his Fool. As long as we are each of us dressed in our proper business attire, reflective of our official roles and status in life, it may be hard to get down to the real issues that connect us all as human beings. Anyway, doing  morals consulting naked sure worked for Diogenes, a beggar in his own right, as that bowl shows. The staff was for supporting his steps, and for beating those who did not get it.  The dog, naked too, lifting his leg upon the statues of the great, was a role model.

Philanthropy In the Context of Philanthropy

Imagine a blog from the Titanic entitled, "Tips on Maximizing Tips." The blog, by a cabin boy, would provide up to the minute insights on how to cultivate big tips from first class passengers. Sometimes I feel like that blogging about philanthropy in 2008. I want to say on topic (philanthropy), but keep going off on tangents about complacency, social class,  criminality, hubris, moral health, satire, and icebergs. Forgive me.

Ex-Cons make the Best CEOs and Presidents?

Is success in running a drug smuggling operation, or in achieving high rank in a street gang, predictive of success (with proper training) in business, or for that matter in high government office? Early indications are positive. I question the premise, though, of recruiting these future leaders from the prisons. Don't we want to recruit our future leaders of business, the CIA, Homeland Security, regulators, lobbyists, newscasters, and the Judiciary, from the ranks of pimps, whores, murderers, and bandits who have not been caught? Wouldn't they be our best bet, from a Darwinian meritocratic perspective?

Philanthropy Page at High Class Blogs

A volunteer at High Class Blogs wrote to alert me to an excellent resource page, on Philanthropy and Non-Profit Charity Organizations. I wish the page had an rss feed, and that individual entries had their own permalink. It might be a good idea for the organizers to use a traditional blog format in order to make following the page and linking to specific items easier. A lot of hard work and good judgment has gone into selecting the links, and to writing the blurbs.