Here is a little thought sequence. It seems to resonate.
I. On the Same Page
1. Inspired Legacies tries to get donor, advisor, and nonprofit on the same page.
2. Whose page?
3. The donor's.
II. Where is the Page Held?
Once we are all on the same page, where will the donor hold that page?
1. Foot high?
2. Knee high?
3. Belly button high?
4. Heart high?
5. Level with the eyes?
III. The Wealthy as Leaders
What does a person of wealth need to provide effective leadership?
- Breadth of experience with the issues affecting society.
- In-depth appreciation of at least one key issue area.
- An adequate theory or perception of "how things really are."
- An adequate theory or instinct as to "how things might be changed."
- Access to best practices, and what has been tried and failed, and why.
- Role models, peer networks.
- Ability to recognize talent, bring it into play, delegate to it, back and support it.
- Personal qualities such as humility, courage, and persistence.
IV. Role of Advisors
- If we did a survey of tax, legal, and financial advisors of how they help clients, not one would mention civic leadership as a deliverable.
- Advisors are all about the means to the ends specified by the client.
- Advisors are most often values neutral or agnostic about client values. Hence they can hardly help to elevate those values.
- For the advisor, values are to identified not uplifted. That would be presumptuous.
V. Role of Nonprofits
Whence cometh the donor's "values"?
- The example and precepts of parents.
- Religious organizations.
- Playing on sport teams.
- In dorm rooms bull sessions.
- In mentoring relationships with leaders in other walks of life.
- From books deeply read in youth.
- By chance, or through grace.
You could go on, but the seedbed of the donor's values are family and civil society. Nonprofits are crucial not only to providing services to various groups, but to creating a self, a moral identity, a sense of direction, a moral community, and what we call "values," or tendencies, or character, or moral habit. As the apple seed is to the orchard, so is the moral self to community: both result and cause. Nonprofits are the orchard where gifts are sown and come to fruition. The fruitful tree is the donor, herself the fruit of what she seeds.
VI. Partnering for Inspired Outcomes
How, then, do we partner for inspired outcomes?
- Donors to lead towards high ends.
- Advisors to support means to those ends.
- Nonprofits to carry out the programs funded in order to achieve the donor's ends in view.
- But more importantly, the nonprofit to participate in forming the donor's vision, her mental map of the issues, her sense of what might work for social change.
- More than that, the nonprofit should participate - should have participated - in forming the donor per se, her values, her very self, as well as her progeny.
- We are formed by markets, mostly, by brands and propaganda, and mass media. The self is not what it once was. What we call our self is a sorry affair.
- If we are to be more than consumers, if we are to be citizens, and a free people, we must attend to the making of the moral self, the elicitation of the highest self from the base self. That is the work not of public relations, not marketing, not advertising, not think tanks, not sound bites, not entertainment, not spectacle, and not profit and loss. The term for it is paideia.
- Financial, tax and legal advisors are faithful servants of whatever donor-self shows up.
- If nonprofits do not elevate the conversation and elicit and nurture what is best in the donor, and the donor's heirs, we are lost.
- In the partnership between donor, advisor, and nonprofit it may be that the nonprofit has the most to give and perhaps the greatest as yet unmet responsibility - to elevate the discourse beyond what is in it for the nonprofit - a very poor way to model generosity and vision.
VIII. Gift to the Givers
- Can your organization provide to your key potential donors a safe space, like the orchard, in which their gifts and giftedness can come naturally to fruition?
- What can you give to the donor that is so precious it is not sold in stores?
- How can you help the donor foster moral selves and moral leadership among heirs?
- Not your job? Mine neither. So I do it after hours as a citizen.