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November 19, 2006


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Sean Stannard-Stockton

I think you and I agree on a lot. But I think you are incorrectly equating being "tactical" with engaging in philanthropy without charitable intent. Nothing could be further from the truth. I encourage you and your readers to read my recent post which outlines what I mean by "tactical".


Actually, no. I agree with the point that tactics answer to strategies, and strategies answer to vision. I agree with your point that implementation is as important as theory. What I am trying to understand reading your posts is what you mean by vision and strategy. How high up that hierarchy do you go? Do you assume the frame is giving and talk about the vision for giving, and then the strategies, then the tactics for that? Or do you talk about the vision for a good life, a decent society, a successful family, and then ask what strategies, financial and otherwise, might support that vision, and then work on down through the philanthropic tactics?

I guess, not from the standpoint of judging you at all, but just placing your discipline, I am trying to see what you consider the scope of your practice, what is in scope and what is out of scope.

An analogous situation: In financial services some of the best life insurance agents I know pretend to know little of estate planning or business planning or charitable planning. They work with sophisticated advisors but specialize in life insurance placement. That is tactical, but shrewd. They specialize in doing one thing very well, within an overall team that provides the necessary vision, and the larger strategies.

Is that comparable to your work with charitable tactics?

Sean Stannard-Stockton

In my professional life with Ensemble Capital I strive to understand the vision and strategy that donor/clients present to me and then use the process of Tactical Philanthropy to develop the tactical plan to put their vision and strategy into action. I do not assist with developing vision or strategy, although I very well may help the donor/client find an advisor who can help them through this process.

My focus on the tactics reflects my belief that Tactics is a very different discipline from Vision and Strategy. I feel that currently most advisors who offer tactical advice have very limited understanding of the vision and strategy that motivates the donor. Therefore, they often end up subverting the philanthropic motivation by suggesting a tactic which may minimize taxes, but does not maximize philanthropic impact.

Sean Stannard-Stockton

Realize too though that my blog is not simply an extension of my professional life. Part of the reason for the blog is so I can explore issues I care about (like teaching philanthropy to students), which do not connect directly to my job at Ensemble Capital. So, my blog may roam into the areas of Vision and Strategy.


Could you use case studies to make this concrete? What would be a typical client opening interview or request for assistance? How do clients get to you? What does the opening interview sound like? How has the client gotten to the point of having a philanthropic vision, mission, and strategy? Who brought them to that point? Are these long time givers, or new ones making their first major commitment? Do you canvas non-philanthropic means (such as social ventures, volunteering, or political engagement) to the social ends the client has in view?

We are all feeling our way through these issues, online and off, so don't feel uneasy is you yourself are seeking greater focus. I am as well.

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