I am working on a curriculum for a credential in philanthropy. In the Course Info section for the capstone course on "The Art of Philanthropy," I am contemplating such words as these. I wonder if they would get me fired, before I even begin? Ought I to keep it a bit more bland, and finesse the real issues? I welcome advice. Derision is ok too.
The purpose of this course is to help you transition
from "studying about" philanthropy, and mastering the financial
machinery of philanthropic planning, to becoming active in the world as
an agent of the good.
The course is designed to bring you to the leading edge of conversations about philanthropy and philanthropic advisory services. I don't mean so much the leading edge of finance and tax law, as the leading edge of conversations among those with money about what they owe themselves, their family, and to their community, as they contemplate what matters most. The advisors who participate in and facilitate such conversations are sitting at the planning table today at the client's right hand. These trusted advisors in philanthropy are few in number, and precious. They come from many disciplines: finance, law, trust work, life insurance, investments, financial planning, planned giving, donor consulting, foundation consulting, general fundraising, wealth coaching, family systems theory, psychology, philosophy, political theory, literature, theology, sociology, mythology, history, dance, theater, music. These leading advisors are distinguished by their ability to bring all of themselves to the table, and to help the donor or client do the same. These advisors are able to think across the disciplinary silos and to facilitate the donor's efforts to create a meaningful action oriented plan. The highest level of planning is wisdom, virtue, justice, truth or beauty. We don't get there in this lifetime. But that is the quest, sometimes Quixotic, often foolish, never completed.
In this course, we will use online discussions to hash out our personal viewpoint in conversation with others. That is preparation for the kind of open ended conversations about meaning, purpose, and the world we want that draws clients and donors to us as philanthropic advisors. It is also preparation for the kind of civic dialogue that brings a community, or a subset of a community, together in common purpose, whether community members are rich or not. In a society so stratified by wealth, such inclusive conversations are critical for the health of democracy.
You will read key texts and articles by some of the leading practitioners of our noble trade. You will not be spared self-reflection. If moral philosophy is a healing trade, there is also an old saying, "Physician heal thyself." The questions in the study guide are designed to lead you to your own understanding, your own synthesis, perhaps even your own self-cure. The way the questions are set up is meant as a model for how you might yourself conduct an open-ended exploration with a prospective donor or client. I call this, "the unlicensed practice of the liberal arts." There is no law against it. No regulatory structure prevents it. Still, such open discussions can turn the world upside down and hence may be frowned upon by those above us.
Testing, or validation, in this course, is "objective," that is, multiple choice. I have made every effort to use the traditional testing system as a way to reinforce the key points that you will need in the real world. I am not trying to make you parrot back my fallible and half-formed opinions as if they were doctrine, dogma, or gospel. That would be self-defeating, and would represent a worst possible practice. Instead, the questions are designed to make sure you have done the readings, focused on the main points, and can use common sense and good judgment. Sample exams are provided throughout.
To make exams less stressful, each chapter also contains a summary in which I consciously highlight the material on which the exams are based. The reduction of complex, often paradoxical and challenging material, to a testable, even memorizable, summary is a challenge. But I have done that so that you as a adult learner will have some confidence that the exam is not a mystery. With that confidence, that the exam is not "tricky," you can keep your focus on exploring in this course the skills and knowledge you need to work as a trusted advisor to wealth and power, and as a leader in our emerging discipline.
It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your Tutor in this effort. I am only a fellow seeker, one among many. My goal, my highest goal, is that you will come into your own and far surpass me on this journey towards the ever-elusive "world we want." Let me close with one of my favorite quotations, from a fellow moral philosopher and tutor to the wealthy, Seneca: "Here is my way; where is yours?" That Seneca ended up dead, forced to commit suicide by one of the Roman Emperors he served, should not deter us. That Cicero, another great moral philosopher, was executed by those he served, that Boethius (author of Consolation of Philosophy) was, that Jesus was, should not deter us either. We can always fall back on financial expertise and keep a low profile, if need be. In this philanthropic advisory business, we proceed at our own risk. May your efforts prosper.