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December 08, 2006


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Dr. Trotsky

just curious - your review is solid enough that even one with zero credentials is emboldened to venture to say the book sounds like a fine analysis of the middleman role. Middlemen everywhere are suspect, but surely no more so than in a field in which one is dealing entirely with other people's money, goals, values, ideals. Keeps reminding me of undertakers. But here seems a practical, common sense analysis, offering a set of tasks that require a variety of practices and skills. Suddenly the middleman seems legit - moreso. Has this book gotten some ink? some recognition for what it's accomplishing? Or is an academic look here, as in so many other fields, the one gaze everyone can agree is de trop before book and author vanish into the space between commodity capital's teeth?


Philanthropy really does not yet have an academic literature. You can put together a curriculum of "classics," like Aristolte and Tocqueville, or use an anthology like Dr. Amy Kass's The Ultimate Gift, and their are journals for foundation people, and others for fundraisers, and others for financial professionals, but the field as a whole is just emerging as a discipline. So, Frumkin's book is a landmark, and is getting ink in the funder and foundational professional world. If you Google Frumkin Hudson you will see that Hudson did a convening around the book.

Also, Frumkin worked on the book with Christine Letts at the Hauser Center at Harvard, which trains nonprofit people particularly "social entrepreneurs."

The field, Dr, reminds of literary theory circa 1973. Some of us where passionate about it, but no one had yet done a disseration on it. It was not considered a real field. Frumkin strikes me as one of the very first to have "done his disseration" on philanthropy and set up as a Professor to teach it.

Oddly he denounces professionals, having become a trainer of one, it would seem. He identifies with the Funders, (c.f. Carlyle on Heros and Hero Worship), yet is not one. The story of our time, Dr. Trotsky, or is it Dr. Gramsci?


What constitutes a field or discipline? How do you talk about it while it is forming? It happens right here in the posts and comments, and when we occasionally meet face to face.


Discipline: arcane body of knowledge, jargon understood only by fellow practitioners, years of training required, recognized credential, monopoly on a source of income. A professional discipline is affected by the public trust. (Or is, as GB Shaw said, "a conspiracy against the laity."

Dr. Gromsky

I'd be curious to learn about the fee or commission structure. Does Frumkin talk about that? What is the norm, if there is one, for the services of the professional advisor? Do they advertise? Where? Or is it all done via oldmoney networks, on large estates, or yachts, or nameless restaurants known only to the oldmoniers?


Who is a philanthropic advisor? Many established life insurance agents, and investment people call themselves that, and have some expertise in charitable tools, and/or "values-based" estate and financial planning. "The usual charges apply" - most would charge a fee and most would take commissions or fees for product sales and assets under management. These people generally are on what you might call the supply side giving giving, filling up the philanthropic buckets and managing the money in them.

Then there are those who role it is to disburse the philanthropic funds to charities that actually do the work, feed the poor, educate kids, etc. Some of them work on salary for foundations as paid staff. Others are independent professionals who for a fee work with a family or foundation to help them make more effective grants.

So, the field is more diverse than its nomenclature might lead you to believe. Knowing that a person is called a "philanthropic consultant" doesn't tell you much. Frumkin, I am sure, works with individual donors, but he is a Phd teaching college as his main line of work.

My sense is that professionals whose sole focus is helping donors make better grants (TPI or Tracy Gary, for example) do not get rich at it. Often people in those roles, like prep school teachers, are driven to work with philanthropy out of idealism, and can afford it because they have money from others sources.

The investment and financial professionals who wealth consulting and include philanthropy as a hook and a service on top of estate planning or investment management can struggle, but some - a few - do very, very well.

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