"And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore...." - 1 Kings 4:29-34 RSV.
Having gotten involved in giving as a fan more than a player, I have often wondered why anyone pays me any attention whatsoever. Reading Joel Orosz's book on Effective Foundation Management helped me see that even at the highest levels philanthropy is still an amateur activity. Joel is helping to professionalize grantmaking with his new Grantmaking School. More schools are offering business degrees for nonprofit managers. But I keep thinking of Leslie Fiedler who years ago caused a stir among English Professors by suggesting that literary criticism is best done by talented amateurs. I wonder if giving will be more effective when handled by the pros? Will we lose anything by seeing giving as an "area of expertise," rather than as an obligation or privilege of engaged citizenship? Maybe it depends what goes into professionalism. Could it include readings in moral and political philosophy? Literature? History? How will we develop what was once called "largeness of mind" in philanthropists and philanthropoids, or will it always be about expertise narrowly conceived as "techne," as tools and techniques and measuring and managing? Who teaches wisdom, and how without it will expertise be of value?
Joel himself is a wise and cultured man. I note his Ph.D. is in American History. William Schambra shares, I believe, some of these sentiments. I note that his Ph.D. is in Political Science. His colleague, Amy Kass, at Hudson, author of The Ultimate Gift: The Philanthropic Imagination in Poetry and Prose, is a Professor at the University of Chicago, a gifted teacher of the liberal arts. I hope as giving becomes more and more a profession that it raises the general level of philanthropic culture. As Seneca said, "Behold! death comes, which makes us all equal. While we are in this mortal life, let us cultivate humanity." Part of cultivating humanity is the learning the art of generosity, or magnanimity. It is a part of our noble nature, one that the basest peasant can embody, as did the widow with her mite in the Bible.