Best Practices Feed

Beyond Planned Giving to Fellowship in the Spirit of Love (Philia)

Excellent article on establishing a planned giving program from Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. To the article I would add a caution and some encouragement for a slightly different slant. Planned Giving programs are struggling and have been for several years. The Tools and Techniques of Charitable Planning are no longer news. Donors have long since heard about them from other nonprofits and increasingly from the Philanthropic Advisors employed by banks, brokerages, and insurance companies. The field has tilted towards the forprofit advisors, leaving the planned giving officers, and National Committee on Planned Giving, struggling for a new direction. A better approach might be to think in terms of marketing to the affluent, regardless of whether the gift is an annual gift, a capital gift, a major gift, or a planned gift. Then ask how you can align your organization's mission and its core values with a donor education and appreciation program that will help donors work more effectively with advisors on the donor's "inspired legacy plans."

If your organization has a heart and soul, and a passionate commitment to treating each constituent as an end in herself or himself, and not as means to an end, then you are already at the leading edge, although no one has told you yet.  I train both nonprofit and forprofit philanthropic advisors. When it comes to heads nodding when they read the last few sentences, it is the nonprofit dance majors, or the mythology majors, or the religion majors, or literature majors, who see immediately the point. The forprofit advisors find it more difficult, not only because their training may have centered on tax, or finance, but also because a big forprofit has to talk "vision and values" with all comers - with members of every group, community and sect, so long as they are money-laden. That can be hard - being encouraging about their vision and values to all comers, from all secular, political, and faith traditions. Candidly, it can feel sometimes like hypocrisy or like being a well trained professional at love itself, artfully providing a personal service.  (Don't even say it;  yes, I have been there. I am not proud of it, but I can't deny it.  That was when I was young and foolish, though, and besides, I needed the money. As an English major down on his luck, what else could I do? All I had to too was shine the rich people on about their precious "vision" of a better world. Listening with big empathetic eyes to the self talk of the deluded. Nodding encouragingly and waiting for the bit when I could at their money.  It was so easy and so lucrative. I wonder sometimes why I ever gave it up.) Much more valid, authentic, sincere, less forced, less like simony,  if your organization and its donors share a common language of value, and think of one another as constituents, or colleagues, or as donor friends, or fellow alums, or as fellow congregants. 

The Church of Latter Day Saints, Catholic Charities, Jewish Federation, Yale University,  Cisturcian, a Women's Foundation, Giving to Asia,  - good luck competing with Fidelity, Schwab, or Bank of America on high powered planning, credential ladened staff, efficient back office, or on tools and techniques.  But what does that leave? Maybe vision, meaning, purpose, community, love, and hope, faith, wisdom, a nurturing environment in which a constituent might dwell and raise healthy children. A fitting place to contemplate death and legacy under the aspect of eternity.  And guess what the hottest topic is in philanthropic planning? All that "touchy feely stuff" as the expert advisors tend to say with a shudder of disgust.  "Discernment" they have been taught to call it,  writing it down in their notebooks as a good hook for a sales process. Discernment, the wisdom of the ages, provides a competitive edge with High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs). Write that down. Want me to spell it? D-i-s-c-e-r-n-m-e-n-t. And yes, it will be on the exam.

Instead of aping advisors with tools and techniques, or providing high end discernment services to all comers, as if you were a salesperson, sit  quietly, invoke whatever is most precious in your tradition, and reach out to your constituents to suggest they bear that shared trove of tradition in mind as they meet with advisors. Say you are willing to create a quiet space, among friends, where they can think this through, achieve discernment in a place they hold holy, rather than in a place of business.  Then bring in the advisors, under your banner, and managed to the spirit of your organization and its reason for being. You will do much good for donors. Money will move in the spirit of community and higher purpose. And you will get your share  because you stand for something the donor loves, and because you keep that special spirit alive, when the world seems bent on making money the measure of all things. 

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.

Giving When Money is Tight

Carol Kirshner at Dollar Philanthropy reflects on giving when the family budget is tight:

With that said, what areas of life do you feel blessed or fortunate?  Do you have a talent or a gift?  Do you get along well with kids, the elderly or animals?  Do you have a few extra hours?  Do you have a few extra dollars? 

Remember, it is not the amount that matters.  It is the fact you act.

Where do you have abundance and how will you share it?

Inspired Creation

Son of a midwife, Socrates called his method maeutic (meaning midwife in Greek).  Among the Graces and the Muses, no males.  Yet how can this be? Most well known philosophers, poets, historians, etc. are men? Maybe our wisdom traditions are telling us, "Shut up and listen to that feminine voice that seems to come from without or above."  Milton and company took dictation.  We master a discipline in the hope that one day a Muse will master us, our voice hers.

Helen LaKelly Hunt, "Will Women Fund Their Own Revolution?"

Helen LaKelly Hunt, "Will Women Fund Their Own Revolution?" One of the best articles you will ever read on women's philanthropy in the context of a male-dominated (in other words hard headed and emotionally obtuse) estate and financial planning process.  I have read this article over and over trying to take its messages to heart.  If in certain circles philanthropy is gendered female, and if the woman's philanthropy is limited to a philanthropic budget (to a small share of income and zero share of principal), that may be because in her world the door to the counting house is locked and bolted, leaving her in the parlor to make nice with small dollars. When a woman's wisdom is excluded from the planning process, the overall legacy plan may be blind. Worse, perhaps, as in this case, there may soon be two legacy plans, his and hers, once the divorce papers are signed.   Getting the woman's wisdom to partner with the male perspective and rule the entire legacy plan, not just the giving budget, strikes me as a very big opportunity for planners, families, and society. Nonprofits can promote this.

Ylvisaker's Top Twenty

In a 1989 essay entitled Small Can Be Effective, philanthropy icon Paul Ylvisaker outlined 20 functions of philanthropic foundations and funds. Only a few of these functions necessarily involved money changing hands:

Financial: Support Functions of Philanthropy
1. Grantmaking
2. Lending
3. Insuring
4. Investing

The Catalytic Role of Philanthropy
5. Initiating
6. Accelerating
7. Leveraging
8. Collaborating and Partnering
9. Convening

The Conceptualizing Role of Philanthropy
10. Analyzing
11. Defining and Redefining
12. Focusing
13. Inventing and Testing

The Critical Function of Philanthropy
14. Commenting
15. Approving and Disapproving
16. Advocating
17. Gadflying

The Community-Building Role of Philanthropy
18. Bonding and Unifying
19. Balancing
20. Leading

Source: Paul Ylvisaker, “Small Can Be Effective,” in Virginia Esposito, ed.,
Conscience and Community: The Legacy of Paul Ylvisaker(New York: Peter Lang, 1999). Available from the National Center for Family Philanthropy. Via personal communication from Tracy Gary.

Fund Your Community Wizards

Speaking of the forces of decentralization, as opposed to those of the centralizing Superclass, here is C.A. Fitts on Community Wizards, those local can do people from all walks of life who keep a community vibrant. To the grant makers she adds,

In the interests of enhancing the return on investment of your philanthropic dollar, I would recommend the next time you want to invest money in creating positive anything in a place, you go ask the Community Wizards what you, your power and your money can do to help reverse the drain on them and their community. Start with the short run. Every day that the drain on the Community Wizards reverses, is a day that countless possibilities grow.

A view of local face to face grant-making much like that of Bill Somerville or Bill Schambra

Civic Dialogue with Fox News Friends

Pollard on Bageant:

Rich Republicans still meet the working-class and small business class on their own turf, at community activities important to these people. Progressives don't even visit, so no other voice is ever heard in the 'red' communities, and as a result "the left understands not a thing about how this political and economic system has hammered the humanity of ordinary working people...letting them be worked cheap and farmed like a human crop for profit".

We the educated progressive reformers can talk about, or for the uneducated working class, but can we converse with them, in a mutual pedagogy of the oppressed? Hard to do unless we speak of business, family, shared faith, patriotism, and economic aspiration. Many of my educated progressive friends are in the Dumpster, just without the Flag Decal. Many lack health care. A few are hungry. One is currently homeless. Speaking of Solutions from the Grassroots up, our working class cultural adversaries may be our natural economic allies and fellow sufferers. We all have our illusions to console us, and over those self-pleasing delusions we love to fight, defining an "us" and a "them." But effective broader based leadership has to emerge from conversations in which our stereotypes and our false hopes gradually dissolve, as we get to know others as they know themselves, in their own life world, in their own language. Hence civic dialogue, which is a polite term for shooting the shit with the rubes, I mean, with my Fellow Americans.