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June 2011

What do the Rich Need that the Poor can Provide?

"The Rich are Different," a blog post by a former Brooklyn cop who quotes The Great Gatsby to good effect. I am here at the Interfaith Worker Justice conference, talking to fundraisers at the grassroots about major gifts. For them $100-500 is a major gift. I ask them what the rich need, do not have, and cannot buy nor extort. What do the wealthy want, that the nearly destitute can provide? Make a gift to get a gift. Not all parents, however wealthy, want to raise a Daisy Buchanan. What must we do to be saved? The answer, signed Jesus Christ, was, Faith, hope, and charity. What is charity? Loving each others as God loves us. What does love mean? Treating each other as if the other were Jesus, i.e., godstuff in human dress. So what do the poor have that the rich need and can neither buy nor extort? 

Conducting the Charitable Giving Conversation as a Rational Person Would

By Besty Brill and Ken Nopar in STEP Journal, directed to estate planning professionals. Little by little tax and legal professionals are coming to see that the wealthy very often want to have impact beyond self and family. How to have a conversation about aspiration and impact? Not easy for those whose training is limited to facts and figures. The skills needed are those of Socratic dialogue and thematic listening. Those who have such skills are generally found in public relations, advertising, proof reading, teaching, social work, fundrasing, or walking the streets looking for a job. We have, as a culture, subordinated wisdom to profit and now our best hope is to teach "discernment" to tax, legal, and financial professionals. The strategic part of philanthropy can be taught by MBAs, and often is. The wisdom part? We are still treating giving as a consumer preference or proclivity. Questions like, "What does the community need? To whom are you responsible? What must we do to be saved? If not now when?" are syptomatic of a mind gone mad. I know it and accept it. The Wealth Bondage Private Duty Nurse has explained it to me in the process of getting my informed consent. I am lucky that lobotomy is covered, after the $1,000 deductible, by The Wealth Bondage Employee Health Plan. Under Obama Care it may not even need a doctor's permission. Employees will be authorized to provide the service themselves to qualified employees in their annual performance review. Only then can we rise ourselves and become philanthropists in our own right.

The World Needs a New Marx but Keeps Creating Ralph Naders

The World Needs a New Marx, but it Keeps Creating Malcolm Gladwells, in Guardian.Co.UK. Who is Marx, you ask? Who is Malcolm Gladwell? Best to write in USA Today prose if one wishes to be understood by the electorate here. We lack the language to express our unease. Best to police the border, detain suspects without habeas corpus, and patent the humane genome. If billionaires target their favorite causes and measure and manage strategies, we will all be better off. As Ralph Nader has helped us see, global corporations may be unsafe as any speed, but only the super rich who run them can save us. If we could elect true populists and consumer advocates like Nader to high office, even to the Presidency, that would be marvelous. Not likely, though, he is too outspoken. If he spooks the super rich, they may not save us.

Of Pan's Labyrinth

Extradordinary post by Kia on the domination system as limned in the movie, Pan's Labyrinth. What has this to do with Strategic Philanthropy by Hyperagents? Nothing that our business schools are equipped to teach. Do More than Give is on my desk. "Commit to a cause." That is the depth of self reflection that sets this whole giving process in motion. Something is missing in these effective and efficient humans. We have drawn to the top and rewarded the hollow men, the stuffed men because they get results within a system they do not question. Their strategic philanthropy is as prosaic and controlling as whatever else they do to wreck their will for our own good, of course, for the good of all. Best to never have read literature or moral and political theory. It would only confuse these world changing Deciders. Giving, like war, diplomacy, business, and political influence is all about Results. The bottom lines, three or however many, are managed from the top. All praise to our wise and benevolent leader! The leader is accountable to no one. He must hold himself accountable for excellence since no one else can. That is the level of intelligence and self reflection in these new business-inspired books on philanthropy, including, Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Results. Meanwhile, "poetry makes nothing happen."

What to do with poor kids?

Via WhatMatters List Serve:

Retired military leaders are asking Pennsylvania lawmakers to reject proposed cuts in state aid for early childhood education out of concern that a large group of young Americans are unfit to join the military, according to a report by the Associated Press. The group,  called Mission: Readiness, sent letters to elected officials last week as debate over the depth of cuts in state school aid intensifies.

On a positive note, if the student is too ill educated to be cannon fodder, he or she will likely end up in jail and that is good for business, as lobbyists are quick to point out to those who serve them.

Engaging the Powers

A friend referred me to the work of the theologian, Walter Wink. Have read his Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992. His view of Jesus's miracle working power reminded me of Blake. "The eye altering alters all." We are redeemed from the powers, the demons of this world, the domination system, from Wealth Bondage, by seeing through it. There may be no other salvation, though as to that, as Robert Frost said, "the strong are saying nothing." Of the dying and reborn gods, Jesus vies for me with Dionysus. I would hate to have to give up lust, drunkeness, rapine, plunder, and dominion, let alone madness and poetry. I hope to be saved, but with St. Augustine, not yet.

Asking for Major Gifts if you Hardly Speak English

A fundraiser describing how we might work together to uplift major gift fundraising for her grassroots social justice organization, "Phil, imagine six guys from Mexico who work in a car wash seeking major gifts for a worker center." Meanwhile, I am thinking of the balance sheet of social justice types who have millions. Getting the car wash team to ask for $500 is a challenge. What the funder does with the other 99.999999% of net worth is between her and her advisors whose thinking does not encompass economic justice.