Donor Motivation Feed

Idealistic Boomers as Financial Prospects

Excellent article by David Port, "Doing Well by Doing Good," in Boomer Market Advisor: The Boomer Retirement Experts. Quoted are several of my friends, including Drake Zimmerman, Charles Maclean, and  Rod Zeeb. Yes, as these thought leaders attest, the Boomers do respond well, even passionately, when asked where and how they would still like to make a difference. Once that conversation about meaning and purpose comes into focus, so do the goals that drive planning for retirement, investments, health insurance, life income annuities, life insurance, long term care insurance, business exit strategies (for business owners), and estate planning. (These are not philanthropic per se, but they represent the "pre-flight physical" that boomers should have before making any major life decision, including the decisions to retire and to be more active in the community, or to give big.) The key to making money in the financial services arena is relationships with successful people, particularly people in transition. Giving as a topic opens doors, minds, hearts, and wallets too. Where Boomers go, Advsiors are sure to follow. That bodes well for philanthropy.

Bust of Hyperagent Dredged from Riverbed

CaesarAdmire nothing.

Caesar conquered Arles. A bust in his honor was erected. Two years later he is assassinated in Rome. His bust is thrown in the river since being a follower of the assassinated dictator would have been dangerous. Now divers find the stone head.

Today, we know that big funders are "hyper-agents," who, like great generals, found the worlds in which others live. I would think that would be a pretty big responsibility, and one that might make even the most powerful person tremble.

As the Greeks said, "Call no man happy until he is dead."

An Indigent Father's Advice to His Grown Children

Dear Children, Hope of my Old Age:

As you know, I have pretty much wasted my life in the liberal arts and in morals consulting to wealthy people who have zero interest in improving their morals. They go for liposuction, tummy tuck, PR makeovers, hair transplants, upscaling their spouse, or for personal trainers, dancing masters, tennis coaches, and life coaches, or for therapy, or for alternative healers, but they have no interest in buffing or burnishing their moral character per se, unless they have gone to jail and need something to show the parole board, and even then it is mostly about appearances. So, rather than pass on our family values to you, which would only perpetuate misery, I make a plea in your own best interest. Now that you are out of college and had a chance to see how the world works,

  1. Go to Business School to get your MBA, or
  2. Go to Law School, or
  3. Study Accounting or Finance, or failing that,
  4. Become a Fabulist (speech-writer, think thank thinker, publicist).

These are "coin of the realm." The market, the courts, financial statements, the management of money, or the management of public opinion are great goods - imperishable and always in season. Religion, if any, and taste, and wisdom,  or civic spirit, if any, are best left for your own private time with family and friends. If you follow the above advice you will have what is called a "Journey from Success to Significance." Given your ill-considered liberal arts education to date, that phrase may strike you as kitschy, and hopelessly almost tragically under-educated. So call it something else. The point being, kids, get rich first. The significance part is for later, if ever. Get yours first. And please budget a little for my old age. I don't see the morals consulting gig going anywhere good. And with the delirium tremens and with the $1,000 I owe at 38% per annun to the Pierre Omidyar's Social Loan Sharking Venture for the abscessed tooth I had extracted (an operation not to be repeated since it was my last tooth), my future is not what I had hoped it would be, when I first set out to be a Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families.

Children: Remember, "Charity starts at home." A few thousand a year in my case from both of you (that is, say, $5,000 each, more when you can afford it) would make all the difference. My life has amounted to nothing, but the advice I give you now has cost me a world of hurt and is as good as gold. This sorrowful wisdom is your only inheritance. Yet, invest it wisely and you shall be rich beyond measure.

God bless, and please send money,

Your devoted Father.

Breaking the Silence about Aristocracy

Aristos In this March 18 article in the NY Times, Breaking The Silence, John Leland quotes several wealthy parents and their advisors (including one of the best of us all, Patricia Angus) to the effect that wealthy families are more open now about inheritances, that they are concerned about the effect of too much wealth on heirs, that they wish to pass on values as well as money (human and social capital as well as financial), and that many are letting the money go mostly to charity, rather than make heirs overly rich. None of that is new, in fact it is the emerging orthodoxy in the wealth planning field. What is new, for me, in the public discussion of wealth was the word, "aristocracy." Leland more or less just drops it in there, but clearly it is key to our national dialogue, stunted though it may currently be, about wealth, legacy, social class, and democracy.

Against the terror of your kid becoming an supercilious aristocrat is the other terror, "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," or the fear that the family will disintegrate over time. For a serious treatment of aristocratic versus "self made" values systems,  see Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics. A summary review is here.

Identification as Motive for Giving

Dr. Paul Shervish (50 page pdf) is good on how giving flows from identification: We care about and give to those with whom we identify. I notice that some of low or middling status tend to look up the social hierarchy and identify with their superiors, or with celebrities, and wealthy people. Sometimes the poorest and least educated people, as well as middle income people, live a life half in fantasy, as if they were good friends with the celebs they see on tv, or with wealthy people. A truck driver may be furious that rich folks have to pay a death tax. Other people high up on the scale identify passionately with those at the bottom. It pains them that anyone lives in poverty.

The maid who serves in the biggest mansion may look down on those who serve in the smaller ones. And, many a wealthy dowager weeps for the death of her maid.

Sex and Mortgage Fraud

Catherine Austin Fitts on sex and mortgage fraud, then and now. The first of a series. She has seen much, and unlike other insiders, speaks out.  (She was Assistant Secretary of HUD in the first Bush administration, exposed a pervasive pattern of malfeasance, and found herself in what she calls her "enemy of the state period.")  Technically, I guess Catherine is not a philanthropist, though, in speaking out, she gave up just about everything. Her gift was sacrificial and not even tax-deductible. What a fool is she.

Planned Giving Design Center Revamped

The Planned Giving Design Center has been updated and relaunched. is a key resource for any professional working with wealthy clients or donors on planned gifts. Also, the site is useful to fundraisers as a window into the world, mind set, assumptions, and blindspots of professional wealth, tax, and legal advisors. You will quickly see that from within this world giving is all about tools, techniques, tax, finance, and legal fine points. It would make no sense in such a context to talk about donor psychology, ideals, aspirations, or about social impact. These "touchy feely"considerations are best left to the donor's Rabbi, or the Dumpster Dwelling moral philosophers who infest the highways and byways of The Ownership Society, practicing their liberal arts by stealth and dark of night. A better world has lower taxes for our clients. Now beat it! We are doing serious planning here, not vaporizing about social justice, health and welfare, the arts , or the environment.