Old Lady Wisdom in Clogs

Interesting article on Jay Hughes from a publication in China. Jay uses proverbial wisdom to help dynastic wealth and power retain its privileges for as long as possible, in the face of entropy, corruption, enervation, despair, fortune's ever-turning wheel, familial infighting, pathology, social unrest and justice. For this shtick to be plausible as a moral position requires a selective reading of the Tao and the Gospels, Virgil, Dante, and Chaucer, and an audience largely post-literate, but tends to attract the interest of those who find in Wealth a lodestar. The role of Advisor who Deems Himself Wise, as a player within the play, nets another reading of Dante, Shakespeare, and the Gospels. I am not sure of the Tao. Wisdom has feet of clay, and knows it, which is why she wears clogs. It is also why Wisdom, in polite company is kept outside with the dogs. Well, that may just be me. Collar and chain like a dog. Bark like a dog, sit up and beg like a dog.  And still no doggy treats. I wish to God I had never heard the damn Gospels.

Shark Tank Philanthropy in Wealth Bondage

After thankless decades toiling in Wealth Bondage, for slave wages under the heel of my immediate superior, and generous patron, the Goddess of the Free Market, she who rules us all, Mistress Candidia, the self-made billionaire, with, as she says, "a fucking Harvard, MBA," I was delighted to see others being thrown to the sharks for once. If we losers cannot make the case for our own survival, we deserve to perish. Nature and Markets are cruel. Philanthropy is love, but love of a certain sort - many kneel, one gloats. If you feel there is no Market for that, you are really out of touch. Whether you glory in your power, or tremble in your submission - honestly, don't you enjoy it, and aren't you glad to have a big audience? Some may call this exhibition, this theater of cruelty, coarse, debased, crass, crude - but it sells and what sells is good. What other standard would you apply?

Making 'Wealth Disparity' personal - and profitable

"Is it safe to go shopping?" asks a women in a new Porsche, as the hedge fund protesters move through Greenwich, CT. Increasingly, I believe, wealth disparity will be assigned a human face - with protests not in public parks, as with Occupy, but on the doorstep of high profile "job creators" whose job creation has fallen short. As here, too, when 26 were arrested outside Alice Walton's NYC apartment. The photo of a bin chained to her awning pole here, went viral on Twitter, to the delight of labor organizers who consider it a case study in how to get social media buzz.

If one family is worth as much as 1 million low income families how may of that million could show up to pay a personal visit? If even 50 show up, it could be a party, if cake were served. In fact, what a great idea for my Social Enterprise. "WB Caterers: Let them eat cake."  What makes it a social venture for the good of humankind is that we will employ the indigent to bake, deliver, and serve the cake at these lawn parties. Maybe a hedge fund manager in Greenwich can put up the start up money. For every trend there is a profitable niche.  This, at last, could be mine.

Nonprofit Death Spiral - Boards Must Smarten Up

Questions for Boards

  • As you have become a higher performing organization, following Mario Marino’s excellent game plan, has your cash flow improved?
  • Is your fundraising optimized for raising funds from high capacity people like you (Board members)?
  • Can you recommend to your peers the fundraising interviews that your front line people deliver?
  • Will you make the fundraising calls yourself – and if not, what has to change to make this a pleasure?


  •  Boards expect payback for new fundraising initiatives of one-two years. (Via Penelope Burk)
  • Improving fund development, for highest capacity donors, requires a multi-year investment in staff, education, and infrastructure
  • Fundraisers are increasingly drafted into hardball solicitations because the orgs are starving for funds
  • Long term pipelines of highest capacity donors are being neglected even though 81% of the funds come from 1% of the donors over their giving lifetimes. (Via Cooldata)
  • Savvy, relationship-based, fundraisers cite lack of understanding of fundraising by Boards, and ED, as the main reason fundraisers leave. (Via Penelope Burk)
  • 3.5 years  is the median fundraiser tenure, making relationship-based fundraising difficult (Via Penelope Burk)
  • Boards, per BoardSource, score themselves as “flunking” fundraising
  • Yet Board are intrinsically involved in it.

 Funding Facts

  •  50% of nonprofit revenue across the sector comes from goods and services sold to individuals
  • 24% is from goods and services sold to government
  • 8% is from grants by government
  • 13% is from fundraising (via Urban Institute)
  • Donor attrition from year 1-2 is 65%
  • Donor attrition over ten years is 90% (via Penelope Burke)

Competitive Death Spiral

  • Yes, there are 1 million US public charities, but the competition is from social enterprises too
  • Social enterprises compete with nonprofits toe to toe for earned revenue (which is 74% of the funding 'pie')
  • Social enterprises are beating out nonprofits in many areas (health care, home health care, daycare) in part because they have better access to capital markets (Via Lester Salamon)
  • The trend towards impact investing in social enterprises is accelerating exponentially
  • Capgemini 2014 says that the ultra-wealthy rate impact investing as the #1 way to do good –ahead of annual giving, major gifts, planned gifts, or volunteering
  • The only competitive advantages vs. social enterprises that nonprofits have are “mission” (ethos), loyal constituents, and fundraising for tax deductible dollars
  • Desperate, hardball, short term fundraising alienates the best donors, undermines the brand, causes fundraiser turnover, and can lead to a nonprofit death spiral

The Upward Spiral

  • Becoming a higher performing organization (in delivering services) is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of success
  • To achieve success (or even long term solvency) brand "ethos" (living the ideals of the organization), and donor-focused fund development, as well as earned revenue, must be optimized

Board Responsibilities

  • Boards oversee the above, and are ultimately responsible.

Personal Note

The data points above are not my strength, but pattern recognition is. The data points are clear enough to compel action. Unless Boards do step up their understanding of fundraising, and invest in it, I am afraid the future for the nonprofits we love, lead and support, will be increasingly bleak.

Why I am not participating in National Adjunct Walkout Day

"Adjuncts as contingent labor can make less than workers in Wal-Mart," I said to Tutor. "They are having a national walk out day. Should we join?" Tutor said we don't qualify since we offer Morals Consulting on a pro bono basis, without academic sponsorship, and for no credit. Also, we have no relevant credentials, or students. Plus, we already live outside. "Imagine, Tutor," I said, "Imagine that these Doctorates, supported themselves with begging, and we could mobilize them, at least those in the liberal arts, into an Army for the Good, offering Morals Consulting at every stoplight in this country, at least in the more affluent zip codes! Think of the good that would do! The minds elevated! Souls saved! We could brand it. And if each beggar gave us only 10% of the earnings, as our franchise fee....." But by then Tutor was fast asleep. It is hard to do good and do well when even your best friend does not believe in you. Still, with such a huge need for wisdom and such an oversupply of providers, there has to be a way to make a Market.

So tell me, is life a journey or what?

"Tutor," I said, "did you know that Life is Journey?" He groaned, maybe because he had a hangover or something. "Yes," I said, "it says here in this Courtiers Handbook, that we and our UHNW clients are on a Journey, like The Odyssey. You know, Tutor, like Homer?" Tutor banged his head on the Dumpster wall, over and over. "Yes, Homer, that ancient poet guy? And that makes you and me Mentors to the Heirs, like an emissary of the Goddess Athena, to young Telemachus... I mean how lucky! For Telemachus and for us! Touched by the gods! Like me and you, Tutor! Think of it! We are not just two grifters with a wasted education, and a police record for vagrancy, we are the itinerant emissaries of the gods on earth! We are only disguised as losers! We are in rags as a test of the ability of rich people to see the godlike in even the most wretched human form!" Tutor began to spout curses and obscenities; "Freaking, Telemachus?," he muttered."Or, maybe, Tutor, we are on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine, like, you know, in Chaucer? You read him, I know you did, in fact you have the opening stanzas by heart, in Middle English,  'Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote...', remember, how like you told me T.S. Eliot was riffing on that in "The Wasteland?" So, my point is, we are like Guides on the Great Road of Life, you know what I mean? Without you and me, the rich will lose their way, unless they ask us for directions and we tell them some shit and finally get big money!" Tutor finally lost it. He reached under him and pulled out book after book, pelting my poor head. Whack, the script for Thelma and Louise, Whack, the full text of Huck Finn. Whack, Kerouac, On the Road. Then Joyce's Ulysses and his story, "The Dead," about all the lost souls in Dublin, going nowhere. Then, Beckett's, Waiting for Godot.  I don't know what all that was for. Life is a Journey, you know what I mean? Seems obvious enough. I am going to call  ____, _____, ____, and ask them. They are Wise Men and Women making the big bucks. They would know. Is life a Journey or what?"

The Cherry Orchard Revisited

"The Cherry Orchard," by Chekhov, what a marvelous discussion piece for those who do family wealth consulting. Ancestral wealth, urbanity and vulgarity, rising entrepreneurial wealth and decayed aristocrats. The loyal retainer. The perpetual student. The petulant heiress. The urbane cad. What if advisors were to watch, then identify the character whose worldview is most like their own? Family/History. Time building towards the Russian revolution. And we in our dream world as Merchants of Wisdom.  Seriocomic characters of some lesser Chekhov.

Serious Wisdom Serious Lucre

I prayed for wisdom. To mentor me, the gods sent the best in the business, ___ ___ and __ __, but not the cash to cover the tariff.  Four days later I owe them $30,000, each, plus travel and expenses.  For the next thirty years, I will be discharging an ever compounding debt. I would bequeath my newfound wisdom, along with the debt, but all I recall from the eight man-days of consulting, is "Know thyself," a cosmic jest, and these two jokers were no comedians.