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Impact investing - Friend or Foe of Philanthropy?

Looks like I have just now agreed to talk on impact investing for a group of fundraisers in May.  They want me to provoke table conversations with such questions as these. 

  1. What is impact investing, as opposed to earlier forms of socially conscious or screened investing?
  2. Where does it fit in your work as a nonprofit? (Endowment?)
  3. Is impact investing friend or foe for fundraising? (A recent US Trust survey of wealthy families found that 1/3rd  do impact investing, and 1/3rd of that third said they do it in lieu of giving)
  4. How do advisors get paid on philanthropy? How do they get paid on impact investing? Any predictions where that will go?
  5. Will impact investing steal your nonprofit mojo?
  6. Are children raised in a mall, whose only categories are “own,” “manage,” “buy,” “invest,” and “consume,” and whose social status, identity, and sense of community are confirmed by “likes” and “friends” going to prefer impact investing to deeper and more challenging engagement with a cause?
  7. Will any rational person prefer sacrificial giving to impact investing when both get results, and confer feel-good bragging rights?
  8. What is your “competitive advantage” vis a vis impact investing  if you are, say, the Catholic Church, Jewish Federation, Georgetown, a soup kitchen?
  9. In seeking the good, the betterment of humankind, to whom, to what prayer, poem, tradition, or prospectus,  do you turn in the dark of the night?
  10. Heidegger wrote, “We live in society, we dwell in community.” If impact investing lives in the market, in what community do you and your donors dwell?
  11. If your gift planning is transactional, all about the art of the ask, who do you think is better at sales, you or the investment advisor?
  12. When income tax and estate tax deductions are eliminated for the highest capacity donors, under Trump, how will you tell a story true enough and compelling enough that the “social investor” is willing to accept a guaranteed 100% loss of his or her funds via a gift, when he or she can get (according to the investment advisor) a market return and greater impact by keeping the money under management for the Greater Glory of God and the Betterment of Humankind in the Bank of Wealth Bondage?

Any thoughts? Further questions?

American Bacchae

Tutor Skyped me last night at 3 am. Apropos of whatever was on his mind, he said, "Social Enterprises now have as many bottom lines as there were once gods on Mt Olympus. It takes only two to make tragedy, and three for farce. Soon Ovid's Metamorphoses will be taught in business school. They call it 'story telling.' The best stories drive metrics. If only they might read The Bacchae. Reason rules the polis and the great god Dionysus calls for Hillary's head." Tutor may be drinking again. I worry about him sometimes. "If this is what a lifetime of reading gets you, Tutor," I said, "we are better off ignorant." He said,  "You are in good company." Then he hung up. 

Cato's Social Security Plan: Buy Low, America

Now, with stocks selling at bargain prices, might a good time to dust off Cato's Social Security Privatization Plan. Words like "Freedom" "Private" and "Choice" enhance the fundamental truth that in the stocks working people can participate in the high returns associated with an unregulated winner take all market. It is only fair that workers participate, in a small way, in what enriches the owners. Rather than a bailout, or along with a bailout, why not plow payroll taxes into the market? We have nowhere to go at this point but up.

Leadership Across the Sectors in A Democracy of Dunces

A Tiny Revolution:

Back in 2000, when Hank Paulson was CEO of Goldman Sachs, he testified in front of the Security and Exchange Commission. Among other things, he lobbied the SEC to enact a "change to self-regulation" for Wall Street.

Goldman Sachs is considered one of the most philanthropic firms on Wall Street. At the top, business, philanthropy, and governance seem to fuse. Paulson himself is a notable business leader, regulator, and giver. The fate of our markets, country, and species are in the hands of a few very capable people who just need $700 billion, more or less, to balance their books. For now what we need to get the bailout passed is $100 billion in tax breaks. This will stimulate the economy and help us service the debt. If that does not work, we can borrow more money and have more tax breaks. When things collapse those with money will buy things cheap from those they govern. That is how the free market works.

Bailout of Insiders by Insiders

Dennis Kucinich interviewed on the bailout by Amy Goodman:

I said we’re the Congress of the United States; we’re not the board of Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is struggling to survive. And, you know, their former chief is now the head of the US Treasury. He’s in a position to be able to direct assets in a way that would help enhance his own financial standing. I mean, that’s a clear conflict of interest. And, you know, that’s something that needs to be said. You know, why are we permitting the person who has essentially been in a position where he’s managed assets that—you know, many of which are now in trouble, and he can come back and help clear the books for a lot of his friends? This is wrong. It’s fundamentally wrong. And, you know, it’s one of the things that adds a degree of stench to this.

And to the larger points, Kucinich says:

It seems to me there’s a possibility that this crisis has a little bit of manufacture to it. And that really concerns me, because we haven’t had enough time to look at this in an in-depth way, to analyze the impact of it on the economy, to see if it’s going to do anything about a recession that we’re obviously headed into, to see if it’s going to handle the underlying concerns on Wall Street about the speculation and a lack of regulation. The bill doesn’t, by the way, address anything about the speculation, anything about the lack of regulation. The SEC has failed. The Fed has failed. And we’re essentially telling all the same actors, “Go for it. You know, here’s another opportunity,” except this time it’s with taxpayers’ money.

Treasury Secretly Briefs Wall Street

Lovely to hear the sound of these voices: reality amidst all the spin. Friends talking to friends about the "kabuki theater" of government oversight as tax payer money is funneled to those who need it and those who may not, the weak and the strong, all the piggies with their snouts in the trough. 

Taxpayer losses: "golly, let's just pray to Jesus and hope he'll make sure that in a few years our country won't be bankrupt."

Sounds like DC to Wall Street, the people who really run things, laughing at the rubes whose money they plan to shall we say "reposition." What do we call it? How about, "Rescue Plan"?  O yes, Rescue Plan. 

From Success to Atonement: CEO's Journey

As Eric Reguly notes at Globe and Mail, CEOs of US financial firms have had every incentive to drive up their company's stock price by taking risky, highly leveraged bets, knowing that their personal upside was rapidly rising stock options and their downside was a very rich severance package.

Lehman Brothers had built up a $2.5-billion bonus pool before it went bankrupt two weeks ago. Lehman CEO Richard Fuld took home $22-million last year in salary, bonus and options. Stan O'Neil left the CEO's office of Merrill Lynch in 2007 with a goodbye package valued at $161-million. In the same year, Merrill lost $8-billion and was rescued earlier this month by Bank of America. Martin Sullivan left AIG with $14-million in his pocket not long before the U.S. government propped up the insurance giant with an $85-billion loan. In 2006, the year before Bear Stearns went under, CEO James Cayne made $33.6-million.

Stewardship is the belief that whether you win or lose personally you have a moral responsibility to do what is right for  the resources, whether a family, a company or a country, entrusted to your care. What has always bothered me most of about the incursion of winner take all attitudes into the public sector and the governmental sector, and even into business, is that we have lost the culture of stewardship. We honor Trump's Apprentice, and the finaglers who make their gain from a larger loss.  In a culture of stewardship, or of honor, the figures above would refuse to take their severance benefits. They would consider the money dishonorably earned and repudiate it. Unfit to lead? No, now these figures begin, we can only hope, their journey from success to significance through philanthropy and atonement, if The Happy Tutor gets through to them.

Resuming Normal Banking Scams Soon

Sold To US Tax Payers for $700 Billion: Banks Bad Assets, by Martin Crutsinger:

The ultimate goal of the plan remains the same: buy bad mortgage-related bets from weakened financial companies so they can raise fresh capital and resume normal lending operations to businesses, municipalities and consumers.

Excuse me, "resume normal lending?" What was the kind of lending that created this fiasco? Normal? Abnormal? Aberrant? Criminal? Who is being rescued here? The regulators who looked the other way? The head of a subprime lender whose personal fortune is estimated at $1.5 billion, who donated $1 million to Bush and became Ambassador to the Netherlands? What exactly is normal in these circles? What will be resumed? Who is responsible for the rule of law, when the the people at the top are so self-serving? I ask with all due respect, eying the Heat Ray and wishing that resuming normal operations included restoring our Constitution and my rights formerly under law. But, I guess, the people in charge know what is best for us.