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January 2012

As Chicago's Hull House Closes Its Doors, Time to Revive the Settlement Model?

Hull House, a cross class settlement house, founded by Jane Addams, closes its doors in Chicago after 123 years, due to government funding cuts. Louise White in The Nation:

The great insight of the settlement movement was the power of social ties to realign the energies of prosperous people away from their class self-interests and towards efforts to support the reforms working people sought, which in Addams’s times included a livable wage and the eight-hour workday.Underlying that insight was the recognition that materially comfortable people often held dangerous misconceptions about working class people as undisciplined and without ambition and that working people held prejudices of their own about the selfishness and greed of the wealthier classes.

Schambra Demystifies Metrics

Bill Schambra takes on metrics.

But to win funding from a knowledge-generating foundation, the nonprofit must shoehorn its real-world work into the abstract, unfamiliar professional jargon to which data accumulators resort when they wish to generalize across (that is, to make disappear) the varieties of particular experiences.  

The ability of a nonprofit to attract funding from multiple sources is, of course, an essential ingredient for a successful grant request. So that means it must recast its programs into as many different languages and metric frameworks as the foundations from which it seeks funding.



Bill's native intelligence is an unfair debater's advantage. He does not defeat opponents, but humiliates, not through personal attack, but by demolishing their terms, and conceptual frameworks. In his own way he is a great Socratic professor manque. I laugh in recognition of the validity of his critique, then wonder what that means for my own convictions. Will I have to reconsider? I should hope not!

The Trouble with Impact Investing

Kevin Starr of Milago Foundation in Stanfard Social Innovation Review on the problem with social impact investing. The bottom line is either profit or impact.

In the real world of the poor, real change still means stepping up with money that you don’t expect to get back, while demanding maximum returns in the form of impact. When you find someone who can do that, just give them the money.

Catalytic Women

Resources for Women Philanthropists:

Catalytic Women harnesses the economic power of thoughtful, intelligent women who give to our communities. Individually and collectively, our decisions about charitable gifts can transform the nonprofit arena and our world. By sharing best practices in philanthropy – through salon-style discussions and online forums – catalytic women have the ability to shape the most effective models for community change. 

Save the Panda; Screw the Poor

Pablo Eisenberg, at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, on the misplaced giving priorities of America's wealthiest. My best insight into why the rich are more likely to give to savedogs or cats or pandas rather than the poor came, actually, from a rising corporate star whose house was full of adopted cats. "The cats are poor through no fault of their own, unlike people."

Travelling on philanthropic business, I shunt from country club, to luxury homes, to businesse high rise with donors, to Holiday Inns for fundraisers and bare church basesments for social justice work. These are mutually insulated real worlds. Both are real, but few participate in both, other than "Jane," "Bill," or "Sharon," the waiters on a first name basis with Members at The Club. Feudalism, yes, but where is our Veblen or Matthew Arnold, or the Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby, to chronicle our new Barbarians? Yes, I would rather be fed by loyal Sharon, than be her. I wonder how she pays her bills? Well, maybe they get to eat the leftovers. 

Moral imagination - thank God, drink dulls it. Sharon, another carafe please!

On Soros Prophesying Class War

Soros on the coming U.S. class war. He uses of financiers the word "evil," as one might of Eichman. One follows profits, the other followed orders. Both are innocent of evil intent, both did their high level jobs effectively and efficiently, one ended on the gallows. Given that Lucifer, greatest of the angels, haunts Wall Street as he haunted Imperial Rome, and came to haunt the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church, in the long gone days of pederasty, simony, and connivance with worldly power, my role as I see it as a Morals Tutor to my Superiors is to carry a sign, "Repent!" Outside Soros Foundation might be good. Yet the grantmakers stream past me, eyes unseeing. Only Father Brennan here in Wealth Bondage pays any attention, and some say he is CIA trained in the School of the Americas back when Freedom reigned and South American versions of Occupy were just getting started, before they Disappeared. I doubt that Father Brennan was personally involved, but I am unnerved by his facility with whips and the pleasure he takes in the iron cage. He probably learned flagellation in the Church. We are all penitants, eventually. As Michelangelo noted, "Hell is truth seen too late."    

For God so Loved the 1%

The NYTimes recalls the history of conservative American political theology.  On the other hand I have heard Christian pastors suggest in private that a rich man or woman is damned, period.  Training 75 fundraisers yesterday for a Christian organization, I used a case study of a couple in their 80's with net worth of nearly $2 million, most of it in illiquid highly appreciated assets, who were having trouble paying their bills. The purpose of the case study was to teach Charitable Remainder Trusts and Gift Annuities as a solution. One woman in the front row, perhaps 65, with a long working life ahead of her, said, "But they are rich! They don't have any problems." The more experienced among us counseled her about major gift planning etiquette. "Be a nonanxious presence. The rich too have their burdens. Do not judge."