The Spirit of Giving Feed

Philanthropic Planning in The Robert E. Lee Room with Tracy Gary

I had a chance to hear Tracy Gary at the Association of Fundraising Professionals at Lee Park in Dallas last week. She called me from the audience to say a few words about planned giving and the role of advisors. Selected high points:

  • In Lee Park's Arlington Hall, Tracy Gary speaking eloquently about social justice and what she learned from her African American servants growing up in the Pillsbury family. "What would you like the change or preserve in the world?," she challenged the audience.
  • Sitting with Tracy, in the Lee Room, beneath a portrait of Robert E. Lee, discussing gender roles in wealthy families. When I said I thought the woman's vision should govern more than the philanthropic budget, that I thought men and women in a family ought to hash out a shared vision that would govern the family's total assets and income, Tracy smiled and said, "Pre-nup, Phil. Think pre-nup." Yes, since then I have been thinking about how pre-nups and also trusts, set up by husband's and fathers, can govern a family in such a way that the woman or the heir may have all the vision in the world, but never touch principal. (For some fine videos in and around these topics, by Kathryn Davision, go to fortunateisles, and click on the movie canister on the map.)
  • Reflecting later on how Tracy, her More than Money friends, and her friends at Bolder Giving have given away so much - sometimes half or sometimes all - I wondered if the system is not really wiser than it might appear. The hard headed one makes the money, and the kind hearted one is kept on a short leash, doing good - but not too much good, lest the system that supports her giving be supplanted or drained.
  • A big corporation has "silos" to generate and manage wealth and "silos" to do public relations and philanthropy. Maybe some wealthy families go at it that way too. Even then, though, there could be a shared vision, as long as a little slack is left in the system for hypocrisy. If we want our idealistic women folk to be spared that, we men must keep them in dark. Having come to that conclusion, I decided that my wife is far too well informed.

I feel very tentative writing about gender. What keeps me going is that several women have written me or taken me aside to thank me. I doubt I have any of this right, and dealing in stereotypes is always dangerous. I simply feel that the highest vision and best informed vision a family has should prevail and govern its overall plan.  For that to be possible men and women must participate as peers. Admittedly, this is not so in many cases today.

Altruism in Monkeys

Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Capuchin monkeys show concern for others’ welfare and enjoy giving to their peers — much in the way that humans do — according to a study by the Yerkes Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, reports Reuters news service. Researchers tested eight female brown capuchin monkeys in pairs and gave them the option of choosing food for just themselves or food for themselves and their partner. They found that when the monkey’s partner was “familiar, visible, and receiving rewards of equal value,” the monkeys were more likely to give food to their partner.  “The fact the capuchins predominantly selected the prosocial option must mean seeing another monkey receive food is satisfying or rewarding for them,” said Frans de Waal, who directed the research.

Should I now feel less or more ashamed of my altruistic impulses? Yes, they are natural, bestial, maybe? Maybe I can rise above these base impulses and become a social venture philanthropist one day. I can't help noticing that all eight monkeys were females. I would hope the males were made of sterner stuff.

The Gifted Philanthropist

Martha Graham:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

Cited by Rosamund and Ben Zander in The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life.  The inspired giver, dancer, poet is but the channel kept open. The gift can be measured and managed up to a point, but it has its own life, an urgency.  In that spirit Wm. Blake wrote, "The cistern contains, the fountain overflows." Among gift advisors, the poet H. Peter Karoff  well understood philanthropy as an art form, as private as art and as public.  So, too, Amy Kass in her Giving Well, Doing Good: Readings for Thoughtful Philanthropists, put the three graces on the cover. "It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares...." How stange Martha Graham's words sound in the world of metrics, but not that of meter, or measured dance steps. 

Post-Political Poverty

Dr. Larry James of Central Dallas Ministries on treating the poor as "clients" for social work:

People who are hungry, "poor," homeless, ill, abandoned, strangers--the list goes on and on as we think about the possibilities attached to being human--don't need professionalism or "service" or case management as much as they need to be treated like "regular people."

Poverty, he says, elsewhere, is not political. It is a matter of values. Dr. James's message and practice is that of the gospels.

Homeless, Informant 38 Blogs The State of the World

Frances Moore Lappé/Huffington 01.Jul.08

Thus, our hunger crisis is actually a democracy crisis. Hunger can be eliminated only as we remove the influence of concentrated wealth over public choices and ensure the ongoing, healthy distribution of power. The sooner we start recasting the crisis thusly, the sooner we'll all be able to thrive. Frances Moore Lappé/Huffington 01.Jul.08

Via Informant 38. Hunger and homelessness is not unfamiliar to my friend, this informant. The donate button there on his site is a modest lifeline. I believe he blogs from a library.

A Prayer for The Damnation of My Competitors

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control"; Galatians 5:22. How, then, do we cultivate these fruits of the spirit? Perhaps each of these virtues or excellences is an aspect of the others, mutually supportive? So we might begin with the virtue most accessible to us? If we have no joy, try gentleness or kindness? If we have no kindness, try self-control? If have no self-control, try faithfulness? If we have no peace, try patience? The Spirit, presumably the holy spirit in this passage, is not mine nor thine; it is not our Personal Passion that might drive us to purchase a Personal Pan Sized Pizza, or make a strategic investment. The spirit expresses itself in virtues that make life better for others, no less than better for us. Goodness is joyful; the pursuit of goodness through kindness, love, faithfulness and self control brings peace.

Must one believe in God per se to see the wisdom of Galatians? No, you could read much the same in Seneca, Cicero, Boethius, and no doubt in other wisdom traditions as well. If virtues are fruits, or aspects of human flourishing, what then are vices? Diseases, or weeds. And if (contra Mandeville and Milton Freidman) weeds and diseases (like greed and partis pris, and the desire to buy so many worldly things) are good for business, why should we distemper and disorder ourselves and others to improve consumer confidence or drive GNP?

To see kindness as a capital market is see with blind eyes, to listen with deaf ears. Dear God, Heal what is sick in me; raise up what is low that you might enjoy a strategic return on the investment you have made in me, or let me burn in hell, the tree that bears no fruit, cast on the blaze - and may (I have here a list) these others, my competitors who are far worse than I am, burn with me. Correction, let them burn now, O Lord! Smite them with thine axe, like a good farmer clearing rotten wood. Like a reality show judment committee, toss them into outer darkness! Give me time to reform. Let me be thy Winner, O Lord, that I might glory over these Losers, in thy Holy Name, I pray. And, may I make a ton of money, as thy recognition of my sanctity, and as a sign to lesser men, that they mightst prostrate themselves before me.