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September 2009

How then are you sourced?

Tracy Gary from her most recent newsletter:

"How then shall we lead?" I asked the caterpillar?
"How then are you sourced and what resources you?" said the wise soul.

Today was probably the six thousandth visit I have made to the home of funders over my 35 years as a philanthropic advisor. Before going, I'd been full of questions like: "Will our nonprofit sector stagnate or thrive. How blessed we have been. And yet, worry I do, as it's been the hardest of times for development in the nearly half century that I have been supporting the release and redirection of resources for higher purpose this Fall through the retrenchment of donors and volunteers?" We face a crisis of confidence in our very economic systems. I see great suffering on a daily basis as well as enormous optimism given the bold efforts of many. And, by enlarge, I am a person of faith who has had, as most of us in the Western and developed world have, a life that surpasses the freedoms and opportunities of most queens and kings of history.

How, in what language, or with what shrug or mildly dismissive/tolerant, parent to child, smile might a Paul Brest, a Pierre Omidyar, a Bill Gates, leaders committed to strategic, or what might be called managerial, philanthropy, respond to the question, How are you sourced? About like they would respond to "Buddy you can you spare a dime? When strategic grant-makers get together to share best practices, prayer, meditation, and the liberals arts do not make the short list. But whatever rituals of giving , whatever linguistic Totems, a giver needs to part with the money, are  ok with me.

The Normal Violence of Capitalism

Zizek cited in an essay at firedog lake:

We do indeed live in a society of risky choices but one in which some do the choosing while others do the risking.

Right, sweetie, as Candidia (she who rules us all) would say, you bailed out Wealth Bondage, and I appreciate it, I really do. My $18 billion bonus nearly exceeds my expectations! Now kiss my boots.

What do you think of this as a design for a Masters level course in philanthropic advisory work?

I am prototyping a course in philanthropy for advisors and fundraisers that would take this form. The metaphor of the planning table, by the way, comes from Todd and Scott Fithian, whose book is assigned.

Your seat2 copy

The Way the Game is Played

  • Each week you will be given a case to consider.
  • You will also be given material to read, a reference tool, and links to follow, as you work out your case solution.
  • You have been assigned to a team, with your own team blog for interaction with each other.
  • You can huddle as much or little with your team as you wish. (Hint collaboration is a winning strategy.)
  • You will upload your contribution to the planning table for the case under consideration by the class time, even if you are not able to make class that evening.
  • One or more people will be asked to take the lead in making a presentation to the professor who will play the role of client, donor, or prospect.
  • Your effort when called upon to take the lead will count for 25% of your grade.
  • If you get out of your depth you are allowed to call for backup. You can hand off to another member of your team. If he or she does ok, you do ok. (Hint: The Team Player tends to beat The Lone Wolf.)
  • Your final exam will also consist of a case. You upload it. Teacher comments with grade. You are encouraged to "cheat" by huddling with peers, using reference tools, and carefully studying and learning from those who go before you in submitting their analysis. But clearly the standard gets higher the longer you wait. That is, you are expected to have learned from those who went before and to add your own insights.

No pressure!

Computing the Charitable Deduction for a Stuffed Beaver


Reviewing this book for possible adoption in a course. Seems like a good one. Skimming it, my eye was caught by the authoritative treatment of the taxation of appreciated taxidermy property when given to charities of various types. If I paid $10 for the beaver (and can substantiate with an appropriate bill of sale) in 1982, and it is now worth $132 dollars and I give to a natural history museum for the use of the charity, that is as an exhibit, assuming I itemize deductions, and do not have any carry forwards from an earlier year, and that my adjusted gross income is $12,475 in 2009, including my net winnings at blackjack, what will be my deduction and tax savings? How much farther ahead will I be over just selling the beaver, paying the capital gains tax at (assume) 15% and giving the net amount to the museum? (Assume no transaction costs, or sales tax.) With a little research, I will soon know the answer.

Added later:

If you donate taxidermy property to a qualified organization, your deduction is limited to your basis in the property or its fair market value, whichever is less. This applies if you prepared, stuffed, or mounted the property or paid or incurred the cost of preparing, stuffing, or mounting the property.

Your basis for this purpose includes only the cost of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the property. Your basis does not include transportation or travel costs. It also does not include direct or indirect costs for hunting or killing an animal, such as equipment costs and the costs of preparing an animal carcass for taxidermy.

Taxidermy property means any work of art that:

  • Is the reproduction or preservation of an animal, in whole or in part,
  • Is prepared, stuffed, or mounted to recreate one or more characteristics of the animal, and
  • Contains a part of the body of the dead animal.

Fundraising in a Catholic Context

Fr. Dick McGarrity, SJ on the spiritual dimension of his fundraising as a Jesuit:

I also find there is a strong spiritual component to my fund-raising responsibilities. In my heart of hearts, I have come to feel that one of the basic elements of my function as president of the Jesuit Partnership is to provide an opportunity for people to participate, share in, and help carry out the vision of the Jesuits. I am, in effect, inviting the laity to invest their time, energy, and resources in the work that God calls Jesuits to do.

Yes, but consider how your wealthiest donors create what Dr. Paul Schervish, a former Jesuit, now head of the Boston College Center for Wealth and Philanthropy calls, a Gospel of Wealth or spiritual biography. You, Father McGarrity might call some of these self-serving tales, confessions, or expressions of spiritual pride, vanity, or moral blindness. How do you engage with your wealthiest donors as priest, spiritual guide, confessor, as one who does pastoral work among these wealthy lambs who must be fed, guided, and shorn? I am asking as one who as a Moral Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families often relies upon Catholic social teaching, to little or no avail. I figured it was because I have no official standing, no clerical collar, and am best remembered for the dissolute life I (like St Augustine) led in my youth as a sinner in Wealth Bondage, before my recent repentance and reform. But I notice that even the Rabbis, the Jesuits, and others who do have spiritual standing, and who have led a life unstained by worldliness, play it pretty safe around those with big bucks. Does this not, Father, invert God's natural order?

Sensible Gifts for Children of Wealth

Independent Means:

If you’re still agonizing over what to give your niece, your best friend’s son or your own grandkids or child, consider gifts that will have lasting meaning and stand out for their creativity—in an era when sending the right message to the next generation has become much more important…

Asked Missy Proctor, WB Class of 2010, for her take:

Right like if I get a crappy graduation present I am going to be all like, O I am so grateful! I am going to be sooo generous and make the world a better place. I mean get real. Independent means, now that is more like it. What does it take in a Trust Fund for me to have $500,000 a year to live on plus fun money for the rest of my life? That is hard; is it like what a million or something? Probably need some hunky algebra guy to figure it out for me.

Is Nobless Oblige Dead or Just in Remission?

In our Carnivelesque sidebar, one of the country clowns has asked my old friend, and prep school roomie, Dick Minim, of the East Coast Minims, now one of the leading consultants to grant-makers for social impact, whether nobless oblige is dead. The country clown is working off personal data. He has noticed that the country is nearly bankrupt, that Wall Street, our god-principal, and carrier of Freedom, is corrupt, that our government, both its parties, is in bondage to wealth, and no less addicted to debt than is the general public, that the activists of the 60s have now evolved their consciousness beyond doing anything in particular to meditation in safe places, they became the change they seek in the world, the change being what Wm Blake called, Beulah Bliss, or what is commonly called narcissism or the Oceanic feeling that Freud likened to the womb. So, I gave Dick a jingle at the philanthropic advisory firm he manages here in Philadelphia. He said,

Well, Tallyho!, Amigo. So good to hear from my old prep school pal of pals. How goes it? Have you heard from Whale or Grimm recently? I hear Whale is under consideration as the incoming head of Rooster Foundation. Grimm, I hear is going to be commissioner of baseball, once he retires from the Board at Exxon. What can I do you for, old pal? Nobless oblige? Dead? You have to be kidding me! Don't you know that according to my recent white paper, foundations have a moral imperative to give to the poor? Well, with any luck, we are going to pass a law! Yes. We will pass a law making each foundation give at least 10% of its grants each year to the least among us, chosen by lot or some such thing. Like a lottery, you know, only the tickets will be allocated by some kind of formula, based on needs with some kind mechanism to distribute the tickets fairly among the races. The lottery will serve to replenish the blood of the upper classes, by raising up one wealthy person a year from the great unwashed. Plus, it will give hope to the oppressed and legitimize the rule of inherited merit. Breeding tells, as with horses. Now, forgive me, must scoot. Mummy is in from the coast and we are off to Sothebys. The jade this year is simply superb; some of the best I have seen, Amigo. Do ring me up again some time.

I found this encouraging and hope it will lay to rest any misconceptions among the country clowns that their interests have been neglected by the ruling elite.

Can or Should Fundraisers Rise Above Their Own Agenda?

I teach philanthropy now to both advisors and fundraisers. Advisors are trained to put the interest of clients above their own. (Some do, some don't, but that is the operative ideal.) I have been saying to fundraisers that, if they want to a seat at the planning table where the big dollars are planned, they too will have to serve not solicit the donor. They do that by letting go of a personal agenda long enough to learn what motivates the donor, to recommend advisory work when needed, and to suggest a mission match and charitable tools when and only when they fit in the larger planning picture. I wish I had a YouTube video montage of the faces fundraisers make when I talk like this. "Are you kidding me?" is the general attitude. In 1930 you could have gotten a similar look for suggesting that life insurance agents might ever be welcome at the estate planning table. Today, the best agents convene that table regularly. In sales we talk of bending over to pick up a dime while walking past a dollar. Small gifts can be solicited. Large gifts from assets are planned. Not being present when that happens makes getting that gift unlikely.

Grateful for the Usual Scraps, Roger, Thank you, Sir!

Quite a profound meditation by Roger Scruton on grace, gratitude, justice, rights, and resentment. The piece ends with this forbidding sense of a future made bright and gracious by suffering as the welfare state collapses:

It seems to me that this is the way we learn gratitude—not from abundance, but from dearth, not from comfort but from affliction. And in learning gratitude we come to see that the things which war against it are after all only temporary. We are already seeing that the educational, health-care, welfare, and pensions systems of the European democracies are breaking down. This universal provider will soon cease to provide; the normal and natural condition of society, as a condition of scarcity and deprivation, will replace the habitual abundance. And once again people will recognize not only that they depend on others to give to them, but also that they must learn to give in their turn.

Living in a dumpster, I can see his point. Toffs like him toss stuff in, and I toss stuff back. I use the LIFO method, tossing back out the oldest garbage. The world grows closer and more loving as a consequence.