Moral Injury - Trauma and Results

When the soldier, on orders, burns the convoy, finds the charred corpses of children, and gets a medal for valor, based on racking up a higher than expected body count, the soul is injured. When we say results are what nonprofits are for, we use the language we share with business and war. And the damage done to the abused souls who become abusers in their turn..... We hangmen hang each other on command. Harlow's monkeys clinging to a wire mother, chew through their own arms. We each need love (not earned, given; not metered but unstinting) to form a self and thrive. Nonprofits (some) are an extension of the family, of brotherhood and sisterhood. The results of fellowship, like the results of a house built from blocks by a child, or the results of a meal cooked by a mother, or of a bedtime story told, or sermon preached to a few souls nodding off in the pews, are nebulous. We only think, we in Wealth Bondage, that it is all about results, measured and managed, because we are the abused, who have become abusers in our turn. "Shark Tank Philanthropy," staged by the Devil for his own delight. Not for results - but for the sheer diabolical fun of watching beings created in God's own image debase themselves and each other. Results are a pretext. Satan's goal is the injured soul. The most injured rise to the top because they are without compunction...... Hush, Tutor, please. The walls have ears. You know Candidia, our Superior and Generous Patron, she who rules us all, thinks the world of you. You have broken more men and women for her in Wealth Bondage than the Marquis de Sade. And they love you for it and return for more. Many you broke, now break others. Your minions have minions. Don't buy it all back now. Break three more this week and you get a coupon for lunch.


The Problem of Evil and its many Benefits, artistically considered

If good, healthy-minded people see what they call "evil" as the exception, an aberration, something to be penalized or cured, a mere stain on their naturally pure soul, as on the fleece of a lamb, and if the evil people see all that the good people do and more - namely that the good are innocents who can be coopted, managed, used, and expended, lambs who can be led, fleeced and butchered, with impunity since lambs don't bite, where will the balance of power lie in markets, management, war, politics - all the things that govern our debased realities? Then there is, say, literature and philosophy - the same balance there, with the advantage to the Paul de Man or the Nietzsche or the Faulkner to whom mendacity, horrors, the perverse, the willfully cruel, are legible and manageable, readily included in the fabric of the text, if only in the knots, and the underside? And what of religion? Can we be sure the Devil had no say in The Book of Job? That his hand was not the one raised over Isaac on the altar? That he had no say in the Flood, or in the second coming when blood and fire cover the earth, in some neurotic's vision of revenge? Or, do we flip these texts and say that, no surely, the Father who takes his son's blood in recompense for an imaginary crime, involving an apple, is a moral exemplar, we just don't understand how, because Goodness so exceeds our dim capacity to appreciate it in all its glory? Yes, the sublime - like Nero fiddling as Rome burns, or Hitler in his bunker as Berlin burns. So Christianity and Islam meet in a shared mutually agreeable apocalypse, following their leaders, texts, and flags. In that is it the hand of God you see? So, I hear my Tutor, muttering in his half-sleep. The damn books, again. For a pillow, German Autumn, and for a mattress The Collected Works of Dostoyevsky, Conrad, and Faulkner. If I don't get him back to Oscar Wilde, soon, he may never emerge from this depression. Of course God is good. The nuns said so. Jesus Christ, why make problems where there are none? Family is good. Giving is good. Religion, literature. It is all good.


Human Truth Eyes Shut Ears Stopped

The guttural voice of the group id. Yik Yak, the anonymous gossip app. Masquerade. Life as a cabaret vs. the world of polite power, played with pious faces. The "carnivalesque." The Lord of Misrule. Channeling violence and obscenity, at times for a higher purpose, anonymous for good reason, and sometimes just harassment or mob rule, like a lynching. On our best behavior not much can be said to overturn stifling decorum, which itself blocks self knowledge, and social change. Oscar Wilde said, "Man is least himself when he speaks in his own person. Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth." The otherwise untold truth, certainly, and much else too that is best, like human nature, hidden beneath skirts, britches, and ecclesiastical robes. "None does offend, none," cries Lear mad, stripping himself in the cold rain. Yet what could be more offensive on the public stage than the king's shriveled genitals? In the presence of human truth, we avert our eyes out of respect for humanity. Laughter comes closer, the split second recognition, before we say, "Excuse me," as I often do, to no avail. For satire there is simply no excuse, not even the classics. "The truth will set you free, but not before its finished with you," wrote David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, before his untimely death by hanging, self-inflicted.


Mnemosyne's Journey

"The paths of glory lead but to the grave," the poet writes.

Lost myself, on the Journey from Success to Significance, having found neither, I crossed paths with Mnemosyne. In her dotage she had lost her memory and her mind. I asked her name, next of kin, her home address, and all she could mutter were a few clichés.  Sic transit Gloria. God help us all. She died intestate. Her intellectual property was distributed to Marketing, Avarice, Mendacity, Cunning, and Folly. Their mentor, Wisdom, turned Slattern, draws her fees from corpus. The assets dwindle, but the heirs thrive.


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?

 Observations

  •  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?"