I teach a course for both wealth advisors and fundraisers on gift planning in a nonprofit context. After assignments on the three sectors, finding your funding model, board responsibilities, planned giving, gifts of noncash assets, marketing planned gifts and major gifts, stewardship, and ethics, I am considering an assignment on emerging trends. In that I want to teach how fundraisers can work with highest capacity funders who consider themselves venture-style funders, demanding metrics, accountability, dash boards, and proven results. (Give Smart: Giving that Gets Results, Leap of Reason, Money Well Spent, Giving 2.0, Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets, Do more than Give, are all excellent books in this business-inspired genre. Jim Collins' Good to Great in the Social Sectors is a classic. Stanford Social Enterprise Review is another gathering place.) What I am finding is that the central message of these books (high capacity, high performing, metrics-driven nonprofits deserve and will get funding, the rest may not) leaves fundraisers helpless. What role can a mere fundraiser play in reforming the entire organization as a precondition of raising funds? Whereas in market circles, you might have sales persons, or a road show to launch a venture, the intake of funds for nonprofits is delegated way down the gift planner, gift solicitor, fundraiser, major gift officer, planned gift person, or grant proposal writer. They can hear the message from the texts written by venture funder, but what are realistic action steps for the fundraiser?
It seems that these books are written with an implied audience of the Board or the Executive Director plus Board. The action step might be to hire an outside consultant from Mckinsey, FSG, or Bridgespan - as if the charity had the money! Hence the emphasis, perhaps, in these books on scale - get big enough to hire us as consultants or die. If these venturesome philanthropy books and philosophies are to have the catalytic, disruptive effect, they envision, and do net good (good created minus evils let loose) they will have to become integrated with Board and ED training, not just for the top 100 charities, but for many nonprofits, even the majority of them. I am not sure I see that happening. If anyone can point me to resources that address the issues raised in this post, I would appreciate it. (What do I say to fundraisers who ask, "What am I supposed to do with this venture philanthropy stuff? Why are you teaching it to me? I just raise money here, I don't run the freaking place!") I am asking, too, because so much has been written brilliantly in these books about a whole new way of looking at funding nonprofits, we are now at the point of having to ask how those insights (which are too clear to be ignored) can be applied to the fragile nonprofits which are in this era of austerity so near sinking. That the small will sink that the big may prosper is a chilling thought. I hope that Darwinism is not imported into our schools, homeless shelters, and religious organizations, from the culture of business. Market failure, broadly considered, includes the dehumanization of all concerned. Market failure unrecognized and un-alleviated is moral failure. How then, as a practical matter, with these business-inspired books, will we help the least among us, and those who raise funds on their behalf?
A Canadian philosophy professor in The Globe and Mail,
Actually, historically, a liberal education was accorded not to citizens in general, much less women, slaves, business people or tradesmen, but to aristocratic leaders. In busness schools today we do teach Leadership, and we we are getting a new Aristocracy, so maybe we do have the liberal arts in disguise. I think so. Most of impact investing and the language of social ventures is cold ossified poetry. It is not good poetry, and it is not seen as poetry, but then no myth is, while it delivers the goods and the glory to those who promulgate it. I have tried critical thinking, and have decided that followership is a better path to leadership. If only I had started sooner.
Liberal education is about citizenship, not job training or simple personal enrichment – though it may incidentally provide both. Postsecondary institutions should be in the business, primarily, of creating critical, engaged citizens. This is not the current dominant view; it is nevertheless the correct one.
There is the thing done and the result of what is done. We can understand philanthropy as giving smart to get results, but there is also the spirit in which we do that. In the Gospels the widow gives the smallest of all coins, and the worldly results might seem to be nil, but Jesus says that her gift was the greatest since she gave all she had. As for the worldly results, they may be like the mustard tree that grows from the tiniest seed, and spreads from tiny seed to tree to many tiny seeds. If we give in a spirit of dominance, profit and loss, and mastery, as Paul Bremmer, for example, gave Freedom to Iraq, built from a pattern, enforced with explosives, forwarded by think tank interns, have we reproduced what Jesus praised, or something else, something quite different? We are the results of our own ideologies. We are fruit of that tree. All too often the taste is of ashes. We are also, say, the result of a mother's love and example, of religious and philosophical traditions fostering our humanity; in that spirit too we might give, and such gifts of the living seed however tiny bring life.
We can only master and manage what we can measure - and the seeds of a better world are so tiny, they blow from our threshing floor, wild, leaving us to plant the husks in straight rows like the dead. But the number of straight rows - ever growing. So do we get results.
To subvert means to turn from below. We need a new word, which means to turn from above. The primary threat to the democratic state and its functions comes not from mob rule or leftwing insurrection, but from the very rich and the corporations they run.
Neoliberal think tanks, in his view, and their secretive funders, are the fulcrum for detournement from above. I am seeing something in the evolving view of philanthropy as well managed metrics that chimes well with the neoliberal agenda. The nonprofits serving the poor must suffer as Austerity hits, as tax breaks are given to the Job Creators, the Leaders, those who will use Catalytic Philanthropy to do well and do good, accountable to no one but themselves. The nonprofits will suffer less the more they become like businesses, the less they resist or question the necessity of well managed happily subservient heirarchies and their well paid Leaders. The manic tone of business unleashed is triumphalism. Capitalism has failed but oligarchy thrives. I take no little credit for this in my Annual Performance Review. Every dime invested in Gifthub by my generous Patron, she who rules us all, is money well spent. I am getting results. By every measure the rich are getting richer. Every post pays dividends. And if I was paid more, I would do even better, Mistress, because I would not be so hungry, and would not faint at my desk as often.
To Whom it May Concern
Gifthub is an immortal work of art in theMenippean Tradition,written in a Padded Cell (he calls it a Dumpster for obvious reasons) in a state of shock by Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, under an alias, or alter ego, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage...... More....
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