Maxed Out is an excellent 120 minute online video documenting America's addiction to debt and who profits from it. To me this sad story connects to philanthroy in the form of a personal moral dilemma. Those who profit most systematically from pushing subprime debt, credits cards to college students, and even payday loans and pawn shops are the same big banks whose names are a whose who of philanthropic services providers (and campaign contributors). Many of my closest colleauges and thought leaders in philanthropy draw their paychecks from the banks some of whose divisions operate like loan sharks. Does this mean that if I give a talk on philanthropy for some nonprofit and the sponsor is a big bank that I should refuse to drink the Perrier they paid for or eat the brie? Something, or many things, are so wrong in this country that one looks in vain for a place to begin. As some say, "There is no 'outside' of Wealth Bondage." Even Gifthub is sponsored by them. I mean I got to make a living somehow.
Here is a thought: If you are getting your advice on philanthropy from a Trusted Advisor inside Wealth Bondage, consider asking a more independent source, if you can find one. Remember, for a philanthropic operation to prosper inside a Fortune 100 bank its return on capital must compete with the credit card operation. How? Well, that is what a SVP would need to explain to stay on top of that particular philanthropic heap. If he or she can't make that kind of money off keeping your money invested in some account, philanthropic or otherwise, they will find someone who will. I only wish they would call me with a job like that. I could double my salary and do good at the same time.
You see how this works? If you do have philanthropic capital, take care where you put the principal and where you get your advice. We can do better, but I am increasingly convinced it has to start with the donor/client/social investor. The rest of us are just going to batten off your money, and go where you go. Please consider providing some leadership. Write me if you want to talk about real social change.