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June 2009

Private Money, Public Good

How Public is Private Philanthropy? by Evelyn Brody and John Tyler in pdf published by The Philanthropy Roundtable. The authors conclude that there is no basis in curent law for treating private foundations as public money to be controlled in their grants, say, by government action. The poor will have to look to the taxpayer, not the foundations for their entitlement programs.  As a practical matter, if the government begins to treat foundation money as their money, fewer foundations will be set up. A foundation, if controlled in its grants by government, would be just another, more elaborate way to pay taxes. Why bother?

To level society, NCRP, we need a bigger bulldozer.  Let's abolish, for example, intellectual property.

The Intellectual Property of the Holy Spirit


We in the US and elsewhere have had the habit, for perhaps too long, of assuming that conversation can be bottled up inside a piece of thingliness - a vessel like a book, a CD, DVD, digital file, painting, etc. -- and presented as a self-sufficient, closed object which can then be sold. I don't think that's what "markets are conversations" was intended to mean, but the closing of the conversation, like the enclosure of the commons, leads to improper notions of something as "a property," and then, "intellectual property."

Stalin had Mandelstam tortured and shot for an aphorism, "Crag-dweller of the Kremlin." The image was so good the poet recited it to friends, and it spread to an informant, then passes down to us, immortal though the poet died miserably. Now, that Russia has become a market economy, I am sure Mandelstam's heir's intellectual property rights are protected. In that way, I guess, the poet is well compensated.

Vigilante Philanthropist Glorified on TV

Interesting response by Steve Gunderson of Council on Foundations to the NBC show, The Philanthropist. He quotes a friend as saying, "The Philanthropist is to philanthropy what the Pink Panther is to police work." The PR says it follows the heroic adventures of Teddy Rist, billionaire playboy-turned-vigilante philanthropist, taking him across the globe from Haiti to Myanmar, Kashmir to Paris, Kosovo to San Diego.” In the interest of setting the record staight, I do think we should encourage the Council on Foundations to offer a prize annually to the  playboy-billionaire-turned-vigilante-philanthropist" who really does do the most good in the world.  Success to significance gone wild. 

Jolkona Foundation

Jolkona Foundation:

Jolkona Foundation makes it easy for you to make a difference by allowing you to make small donations to projects of your choice and to see the impact of every donation."

Web 2.0 microphilanthropy with an emphasis on interaction, human connection, and consideration of impact. The site does draw you in.  Doesn't feel like shopping, feels more like KIVA, though it fosters micro-philanthropy rather than loans.  As with Kiva, Jolkona "goes direct" to the end recipient, giving you a sense that your donation did something in particular for someone or something in particular. This disintermediation of nonprofits  is not so easy to bring off. When working with projects and people who are not within an existing nonprofit, the Foundation has to, presumably, exercise "expenditure responsibility," in providing due diligence and and ongoing supervision.  Apparently, Jolkona undertakes this.

Added Later: Adnan Azfar Mahmud of Jolkona Foundation answered specific questions by email. The Q & A is posted with her permission.

Q. You exercise expenditure responsibility over projects that are not under a nonprofit umbrella?

A.  Not quite. Our partners already have 501c3 status and run their own projects. Our goal is to bring together these projects in 1 place so that our users can easily pick projects to donate. The big difference is that our partners are committed to showing impact for every donation that they receive. For example, our partner – Children of Uganda – work with orphans in Uganda. With $25, a donor can feed 5 children for an entire week. In return Children of Uganda will send the donor list of the food items purchased for the $25. All of this is done over the web. Let me know if that answers your question.Q. How do you fund the site and the due diligence process? So far we have been finding partner organizations mostly through recommendations and Internet searches. We have an extensive selection process and you can find information about it here:

Q. Could not easily see the underlying financial stuff from your site. Might it be good to put the answer to the obvious question about costs and fees somewhere it can readily been seen?

         A. We transfer 100% of every gift to our partner. We have a separate fund – called Kona Fund – to help with our operations. We do separate fundraising for that account. Our users can also give to Kona Fund separately from the projects. You can find info on Kona Fund here: We also have a FAQ page here: which we hope answers most questions. We are continuing to look for ways to better expose these questions.

Quite responsive, to these queries, I would say. Thank you, Adnan.

Philanthropic Planning for Dynastic Families

Actually, these families might better be described, maybe, as cultured, educated, civicly engaged, old money families, many of whom are limousine liberals.  Noblesse oblige bred in the bone. Aristocracy in all but name.  Often drive beat up old cars and live humbly. Good people who have lived beyond the crass concerns of the tax-centered advisors. May, in certain families, be progressive or radical. Liberally educated third and fourth generation heirs who draw their models from Greece and Rome and Augustan England filtered through good boarding schools.  They, unlike their culturally cretinous CPA,  read at age 15  Marcus Aurelius, Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, Dante, Chaucer. Anyway, here is a take on philanthropy for dynastic families from the AIPA Wealth Insider