Previous month:
October 2008
Next month:
December 2008

November 2008

Want to Spark A Cultural Movement among the Sheeple?

Give a holiday charitable gift through Changing the Present, a nonprofit; send a card through its for-profit allied organization.  The net net comes out sounding like this video. I can't get past the pr firm, StrawberryFrog ("We Spark Cultural Movements"), and their smug knowingness.  As viral nonprofit marketing, I don't think this works because it reeks of postmodern Mad Ave cynicism. In my ideal world we spark a cultural movement to surround Mad Ave hacks with silence and loving attention, until, as in a Quaker healing circle,  they break down in tears, confess and reform. I would be happy to counsel with them individually, as a legitimate Morals Tutor, at no charge to them, in a spirit of true giving.

Noted Philanthropist, Dick Cheney, Indicted for Prison Profiteering

Cheney indicted for prison profiteering, notes C.A. Fitts:

This indictment underscores the importance of mapping out the incentives in our financial ecosystems and the risks of using federal deficit borrowing to underwrite laws, contracts and regulations that ensure that some people profit from the failure of other people. By doing so, we create an economy where people make money in the stock market from a failing economy. Until, of course, the whole thing inevitably comes crashing down.

In other words, a senior government leader can short the economy he destroys, and profit from the misery he creates. On other hand, Cheney is quite philanthropic.  The devil works in mysterious ways for the good of all, for that is God's plan.

It is Time for a Change

Democracy Now:

John Brennan and Jami Miscik, both former intelligence officials under George Tenet, are leading Barack Obama’s review of intelligence agencies and helping make recommendations to the new administration. Brennan has supported warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, and Miscik was involved with the politicized intelligence alleging weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the war on Iraq.

Counting Blessings and Bestowing What We Can

Thoughts for donors this Thanksgiving season from Inspired Legacies:

   Here are 8 things you can do to have more impact:

  1. Sit down with your advisor and family to rework your plans. It's a great time to transfer low valued assets to your heirs and update your estate plans. Don't forget your 3-5 favorite charities! There is so much advisors can help with now. This is a key time to get in sync.
  2. If you have lost 10-50%, give less but also waste less. Give 10-40% less but keep giving so you stay connected and hopeful. You may find in saving more you can give more.
  3. Let organizations and leaders know if you will be supporting them: how much and when. Thus they can plan and not lay off staff or move offices unnecessarily. Or let them know asap if you will NOT be funding if you have been giving at $500+ so they can focus attention on who can give.
  4. If you have or are part of a family foundation, consider giving more from principle now instead of giving only 4-5% of income. What if you considered not having a foundation that lasts forever, but move your money now, when it's truly needed. Consider it.
  5. Volunteer more and get more skilled as a donor, a donor partner and a board member. (We will be training more donor partners in 2009, so let us know if you want more training.)
  6. Name the leaders and organizations that you know you must keep supporting with your time, talent or treasure and figure out how (use this worksheet to think it through.)
  7. Fund community loan funds so you can get interest while helping others. To find places that will cherish your money and put it to work, like RSF Finances or Northern California Community Loan Fund, or Shorebank that pay 1-3% interest on your money while the lend it carefully to community based organizations (and have remarkable success as does micro finance at their loan success.) just Google your state, and loan fund or see the National Community Redevelopment Association (link below for some 600 listings) and even better, The Social Investment Forum through Co-Op America.
  8. And lastly remember, we will get through this. We are on the edge of a new paradigm. We are part of building a new weave, a new culture and a new way. We have to nurture and help each other and those in greatest need to get through it. Have faith and be part of the solution by rethinking and changing how you spend, save, work, love, give and lead. Could you make a change to help others be more sustainable or to live with dignity? If so, do it now.

The Art of Philanthropy, State Of

I am working on a curriculum for a credential in philanthropy. In the Course Info section for the capstone course on "The Art of Philanthropy," I am contemplating such words as these. I wonder if they would get me fired, before I even begin? Ought I to keep it a bit more bland, and finesse the real issues? I welcome advice. Derision is ok too.

---- snip---

The purpose of this course is to help you transition from "studying about" philanthropy, and mastering the financial machinery of philanthropic planning, to becoming active in the world as an agent of the good.

The course is designed to bring you to the leading edge of conversations about philanthropy and philanthropic advisory services. I don't mean so much the leading edge of finance and tax law, as the leading edge of conversations among those with money about what they owe themselves, their family, and to their community, as they contemplate what matters most. The advisors who participate in and facilitate such conversations are sitting at the planning table today at the client's right hand. These trusted advisors in philanthropy are few in number, and precious. They come from many disciplines: finance, law, trust work, life insurance, investments, financial planning, planned giving, donor consulting, foundation consulting, general fundraising, wealth coaching, family systems theory, psychology, philosophy, political theory, literature, theology, sociology, mythology, history, dance, theater, music. These leading advisors are distinguished by their ability to bring all of themselves to the table, and to help the donor or client do the same. These advisors are able to think across the disciplinary silos and to facilitate the donor's efforts to create a meaningful action oriented plan. The highest level of planning is wisdom, virtue, justice, truth or beauty. We don't get there in this lifetime. But that is the quest, sometimes Quixotic, often foolish, never completed.

In this course, we will use online discussions to hash out our personal viewpoint in conversation with others. That is preparation for the kind of open ended conversations about meaning, purpose, and the world we want that draws clients and donors to us as philanthropic advisors. It is also preparation for the kind of civic dialogue that brings a community, or a subset of a community, together in common purpose, whether community members are rich or not. In a society so stratified by wealth, such inclusive conversations are critical for the health of democracy.

You will read key texts and articles by some of the leading practitioners of our noble trade. You will not be spared self-reflection. If moral philosophy is a healing trade, there is also an old saying, "Physician heal thyself." The questions in the study guide are designed to lead you to your own understanding, your own synthesis, perhaps even your own self-cure. The way the questions are set up is meant as a model for how you might yourself conduct an open-ended exploration with a prospective donor or client. I call this, "the unlicensed practice of the liberal arts." There is no law against it. No regulatory structure prevents it.  Still, such open discussions can turn the world upside down and hence may be frowned upon by those above us. 

Testing, or validation, in this course, is  "objective," that is, multiple choice. I have made every effort to use the traditional testing system as a way to reinforce the key points that you will need in the real world. I am not trying to make you parrot back my fallible and half-formed opinions as if they were doctrine, dogma, or gospel. That would be self-defeating, and would represent a worst possible practice. Instead, the questions are designed to make sure you have done the readings, focused on the main points, and can use common sense and good judgment. Sample exams are provided throughout.

To make exams less stressful, each chapter also contains a summary in which I consciously highlight the material on which the exams are based. The reduction of complex, often paradoxical and challenging material, to a testable, even memorizable, summary is a challenge. But I have done that so that you as a adult learner will have some confidence that the exam is not a mystery. With that confidence, that the exam is not "tricky," you can keep your focus on exploring in this course the skills and knowledge you need to work as a trusted advisor to wealth and power, and as a leader in our emerging discipline.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your Tutor in this effort. I am only a fellow seeker, one among many. My goal, my highest goal, is that you will come into your own and far surpass me on this journey towards the ever-elusive "world we want." Let me close with one of my favorite quotations, from a fellow moral philosopher and tutor to the wealthy, Seneca: "Here is my way; where is yours?" That Seneca ended up dead, forced to commit suicide by one of the Roman Emperors he served, should not deter us. That Cicero, another great moral philosopher, was executed by those he served, that Boethius (author of Consolation of Philosophy) was, that Jesus was, should not deter us either. We can always fall back on financial expertise and keep a low profile, if need be.  In this philanthropic advisory business, we proceed at our own risk.  May your efforts prosper.

Phil Cubeta

Our Money Narrative: Rewriting that Story

An excellent set of questions from Thomas Hupp. They facilitate an awareness of our own "inner narrative" about money. Going through the exercise with Thomas at a financial permaculture conference, helped me bring to consciousness my own moral narrative about money. (Goes back to the Gospels and Christ's disdain for those who put things of the flesh above those of the spirit.) Good questions for a donor to ask, or for an advisor to ask of a potential philanthropist.

1.  What were your family's financial circumstances when you were born?

2.  When did you first learn about money?  Was it from your father or your mother?  How old were you?  What were the circumstances?

3.  Did you have an allowance?  Did you have to work for it?  Did you have chores to do?

4.  When was the first time you bought something with money you had saved?  Where were you?  What did you buy?  Was it money you earned or was it given to you?

5.  Do you remember your first paycheck?  How did you earn it?  How much was in it?  What did you do with it?

6.  Do you remember losing money?  How much was it?

7.  How do you relate to people who have more money than you?  Less?

8.  Did you dream of one day having a particular job or career?  Have you achieved this?  Whay or why not?

9.  Have you ever accomplished an important task or project involving money?  What was it?  What made it successful?

10.  Name you 5 most disempowering beliefs about money.

11.  Rewrite those 5 beliefs with reverse intent.

Prophets and Poseurs in History and Philanthropy

Prophets and Poseurs: Niebuhr and Our Times, by A ndrew Bacevich. What Niebuhr says of nations forgetting their weakness, and blind and vainglorious, falling into violence as they pursue dreams they mistake for God's purpose, goes just as well for philanthropy. When a Paul Schervish, a former Jesuit, speaks of the very wealthy person's moral biography, and when he encourages the rich to see their lives as a pilgrim's progress, or Dantesque journey, towards some high goal, and even immortality, when he speaks of the stories the rich tell of their lives as "The Gospels of Wealth," he and those who follow in his footsteps run the risk of being false counselors, flatterers, and eggers on of madness. When he calls the ultra-rich, "hyperagents," suggesting they need not live in ordinary time and place, like ordinary beings, but can shape history to their liking, he might as well by Secretary of State to some moral monster. At least that is a risk that ought to give any wise counselor pause. In Niebuhr appears a phrase that make me sit up bolt upright: “tutors of mankind in its pilgrimage to perfection.” As a Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, reading that made me feel ashamed. I can see now that I am pious fraud. If true moral philosophy is, as Martha Nussbaum shows it was for Seneca and Cicero, a healer's art, and if the key saying is, "Know thyself," then we are all of, in this our noble trade, wounded healers, and carriers of contagion. The temptations are great. And so are the risks if a healer does heal himself. Seneca and Cicero were both killed by those they served, the hyperagents of Rome. Goodness is fragile, those who tend it are fragile too. Yet tend it we must else it will surely perish.

Thought > Action > Impact

New from Council on Foundations

Thought > Action > Impact: An e-journal of Philanthropic Ideas. We intend this bi-monthly journal to be a valued and dynamic forum for differing views on issues relevant to the philanthropic field. TAI will give voice to some of the most influential leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, on topics that are timely and matter most to you. This issue focuses on philanthropy's response to the exceptional economic crisis that sprang upon us this fall. It offers both philosophical perspectives and practical counsel on moving forward in an unstable environment.