Randy Ottinger, of LMR Advisors, has written a book, Beyond Success, that is both an expression of his personal journey and also a map of the rapidly evolving philanthropic field. As a personal testament, you can see in Randy's work a yearning he shares with many Boomers: to have a decent life, making good money, but also to make a difference for the betterment of others. As the son of a Senator, as co-chair of his family's foundation, as a Harvard MBA who worked with Anita Roderick to launch the Body Shop, as a financial executive services, as an executive in high tech companies, and now as a social entrepreneur in his own right, Randy has the background to see the field as a whole, as if from a birdseye view. He has also done lots of research, not only reading books and articles, but interviewing leading players in the field. (And, he interviewd me.) Randy understands the financial side of wealth transfer planning and how that fits in financial firms. He understands the family foundation world. He also understands the importance of social impact for philanthropic dollars. He understands how intricate are the mechanisms connecting grant to outcome. He also understands the new double-bottomline hybrid structures, combining features of both for-profit and non-profit. Most importantly, he sees how these elements fit into a system, or ecosystem. For that his book provides an excellent overview or map.
For those familiar with the territory he maps, Randy provides two "new things."
- Milken's Approach To Philanthropy: Randy shows how Milken has created a community, or marketplace of ideas, around his cause, prostate cancer, bringing the players into communication with one another, improving information flows and knowledge management, evaluating work being done, attracting new money beyond Milken's own, directing money to leading work, and, in the end, creating real solutions that have had a measurable impact on the cause. Randy sees this as a repeatable success story, and is mining what worked for Milken for transferable best practices.
- Predictions: Randy ends with predictions. He is in a better position than almost anyone at this point to "see over the horizon." Based on the book and a call with Randy this morning, I would say that what Randy sees are several mutually reinforcing trends:
- More Boomers will want a little meaning with their money, but want the money too.
- Financial firms will seek out legacy planning as a differentiator to attract and retain meaning-hungry clients.
- Financial firms and advisors will struggle with the meaning piece because they are product driven, deal driven, and driven to retain assets under management, while giving can defund accounts managed by advisor and firm.
- More issues areas will find a strong center as with what Milken has done. Those field centers will attract more and more attention and more and more resources.
If you are following the giving field or hope to lead in it, or contribute to it, read Randy's book for the "state of the game."
One caveat from my own eccentric perspective, on the margins, a view from a Dumpster by one for whom Success seems a distant and ever receding, indeed delusory, prospect: When St. Paul made his journey, on the road to Damascus, the lightning bolt unhorsed him, and struck him temporarily blind. He experienced a total mind shift (metanoia), and he repented of his earlier ways. The net result was that he went from Success to Significance, as a writer of the Gospels. He was martyred under Nero, crucified head down.
My point: Venture Pilgrim! Please don't go too far on your journey beyond success without first engaging a Fool as your constant companion. Those who would find themselves must lose themselves, as the Bible says. To do that you need "a guide who has at heart only your getting lost," as Robert Frost said in "Directive. " Sadder and wiser sometimes go together. Wisdom is often born in "brokenness and surrender." Milken's road to philanthropy went by way of his own prostate cancer, and was preceded by a career disaster, including jail time. The meaning thing in our society still needs work. Tragedy as well as comedy, satire as well as hagiography, treat of these themes. "Many are called," as someone said, "and few are chosen." Those untouched by the call to selflessness should be grateful. I would rather have been lucky than wise, and have turned out to be neither. On my own Fool's Errand I skipped a step, chasing the ever-elusive Meaning from youth to old age, walking right past Success along the way. O! What a Fool am I! Wish I had gone for the MBA and left meaning to the Philanthropists. Even if I had found Meaning, at my age, without a spare million what good is it going to do me? So I must read books like Randy's with a certain bittersweet smile, a sorry Fool, indeed.