What Philanthropy Can Teach Politics

Current polarized political rhetoric and hype has us all on edge. Indeed, it has many of us tuning out altogether, just when our nation needs to unite in purpose for the greater good of all humanity. Significant historians believe our nation is experiencing the “winter of our discontent” with hope of an imminent spring rebirth faint on the horizon. Fundamental Virtues and Values Philanthropy in America continues to be a pace setter in directing our nation back to “true north” and to the fundamental virtues and values that made America strong and united in community. Alexis de Tocqueville first identified the “spirit of self-interest rightly understood” in his historic saga, Democracy in America. It depicted Americans’ unique role in building [...]

“Cart Before the Horse” Philanthropy

From talking with professional tax and legal advisors, there seems to be a plethora of well- informed and knowledgeable advisors who advocate “cart before the horse” philanthropy to their clients. Such philanthropic advice comes in several varieties, and most often begins with “How.” Perhaps the advisor asks, “How much do you want to save in taxes?” or “How would you like to avoid capital gains on your sale of appreciated securities?” or “How much do you want to leave to your favorite charity?” Yes, in the right context, these questions are certainly valid, but when asked in regard to philanthropic matters, they tend to place the “cart before the horse.” For an advisor to engage a client in meaningful dialogue [...]

Where is the balance between the heart and head in philanthropy?

In today’s technological age, I believe it is very easy to get caught up in the over analysis of the reasons people give. In recent decades there has been significant research and writings on what motivates donors to do what they do and why. Elizabeth Svoboda’s August 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “Hard-Wired for Giving,” shows some scientific evidence behind giving. She reports that experiments in 2007 by University of Oregon economist Dr. Bill Harbaugh and psychologist Ulrich Mayr used an MRI scanner to pinpoint exactly what goes on in a person’s brain when they decide to give to charity. Results showed that “areas of the brain associated with the processing of unexpected rewards, such as the nucleus accumbens lit up. [...]

When did the ladies who lunch become the ladies who lead?

Make no mistake there’s been a quiet transformation of leadership in the philanthropic community. Perhaps you missed its subtle arrival. It’s not the flamboyant style of the mighty tycoons of the past, driven by ego; but rather it’s an elegant and fashionable movement driven by sensibility and purpose. Ladies who lead are making waves for the greater good by living authentic lives fostering the ideals of creativity, collaboration, and giving both time and money. Ladies who lead are using “time tested ‘women’s ways’ of leading, (that) have become the gold standard for great leaders of both genders, and the building blocks for success in today’s global economy,” writes Martha Mayhood Mertz in Becoming ATHENA: Eight Principles of Enlightened Leadership. What’s good [...]

Who do philanthropists answer to?

If one subscribes to the axiom that success is in the “eye of the beholder,” then the question becomes, “Who is the beholder?” Is it the philanthropist who gives? Is it the organization that accepts? Is it the beneficiary who receives? Who has the primary responsibility of defining success and determining the metrics with which to define what success means? If one maintains that philanthropy is not a commodity defined by market supply and demand but rather the result of a personal journey driven by values and beliefs, then perhaps to a great extent, the responsibility of defining success falls squarely on the philanthropist who gives. There is a significant and responsible discussion taking place in the nonprofit profession as [...]

Erase the Myth of Scarcity and Mindset of Fear

Women are the greatest economy on earth. Philanthropy offers women a platform for their abundance for two specific reasons: 1) The political and corporate sectors have yet to fully recognize the extraordinary value feminine strengths of caring, collaboration, connecting, and consensus building bring to our dysfunctional society. 2) Women’s attitudes regarding the accumulation and use of money are different from those of men. For men, the accumulation of money is the goal – it defines status and power. For women the accumulation of money is a means to an end – it gives women the freedom and the ability to impact society and support the causes that make their hearts sing. Yet, I believe, women’s full potential for abundant philanthropic [...]

Take time to think and reflect

Perhaps the time has come to re-examine our thinking about values and valuables. Is our country’s moral compass still pointing true north? Can conspicuous compassion temper conspicuous consumption? Does de Tocqueville’s doctrine of “self-interest rightly understood” have a place in our high-tech interdependent world economy? History gives us many places and people where one can look for some both thought provoking commentary and down to earth common sense. Author Mark Twain for sure; possibly the infamous New York Yankee manager, Yogi Berra for some; the ancient Greek philosophers for solace. Recently I was handed a list of “The Ten Cannots,” attributed to the 20th century religions leader, William J. H. Boetcker. They struck a chord with me, and so I [...]

Numbers Never Tell All

For many years, the sign hanging on the wall in Albert Einstein’s Princeton office read, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” This is quite true in philanthropy, especially when it comes to the fundraising and administrative costs which are often analyzed in terms of a percent or ratio of operating expenses. Who is to say the current formulas used by rating agencies to hallmark the qualities of an efficient and well-run organization are the “cat’s meow?” It’s the best we have, but can they be improved, can the formulas be more representative, transparent and holistic? How could donor insight and response from the community served add to a convergence of both [...]

By | May 8th, 2013|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Philanthropy: It’s a matter of potatoes

“One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four...” If you’re part of my generation, you may remember singing this English rhyme. In our early school days it served as a way to choose teammates, but now we are all grown up and finding ways to teach the next generation about the discipline and joy of charitable giving choices. One percent, two percent, three percent… ten, fifty percent or more! How do we educate young adults to become generous and committed to a life-long philanthropic strategy with their peers? Who will lead the Millennial 50 percent giving pledge challenge? Who will pick up the torch from the likes of Warren Buffett, Mark Zukerberg, and Bill and Melinda Gates? In 2011, Americans gave [...]

By | April 3rd, 2013|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Philanthropy has an ace up its sleeve

The everyday chatter of economic discontent, political debacle, and media dooms-day predictions makes even the most Pollyanna heart heavy. Negative energy begets worrisome thoughts, meaningless words, and selfish deeds. Our dark times hide the joy of philanthropic TLC -- the synergy of Trust, Leverage and Capital that philanthropy embraces. TLC provides the foundation for community and the "Ace up the philanthropic sector's sleeve" to effect change for a more harmonious and balanced world. The definition of an energetic and thriving community is one that openly demonstrates an abundance of trust, the collective leverage of financial, human and intellectual capital, and an innovative network of social capital working to focus on ways to promulgate the love of humankind in thought, word, [...]

By | March 15th, 2013|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Listen with your heart

The greatest gift is the gift of listening. Not only do the ears need to be engaged and the mind alert -- the gift of listening demands much more. It requires an open and abundant heart. In this frenzied, multitasking, sound-byte society, being an active listener is perhaps one of the hardest skills to acquire and to do well. How do we know that we really hear what someone is saying? Can we take the time to shut out our self-centered thoughts and calm the urge to fill the silence with an instant response? Are we respectful of the hopes, fears and desires expressed by others? Can we find ways to convey the spirit and skill of being an active [...]

By | February 14th, 2013|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Collaborate for philanthropic impact and survival

How does one survive and thrive in the age of specialization? No matter where we turn for advice -- in the medical, legal, financial or philanthropic field -- information is so fragmented. It's no longer possible to see the "entire picture." In many cases, even when several qualified experts analyze the same information, their advice to the client or donor differs greatly. How does everyone get on the same page? Is it even possible? I believe it IS possible by embracing the elements of collaboration, a process that fosters creativity, transparency, communication, consensus and impact. I believe it's imperative that nonprofit and for profit professionals collaborate to ensure the survival of the Third Sector (nonprofit institutions) as the tax reform [...]

What Politics Could Learn from Philanthropy

Polarized political rhetoric seems to be the norm these days and the hype has us all on edge. As a matter of fact, it has many of us going over the edge and tuning out altogether, just when our nation needs to unite in purpose for the greater good of all humanity. Significant historians believe our nation is experiencing the “winter of our discontent” with hope of an imminent spring renewal faint on the horizon. Philanthropy in America continues to be a pace setter in returning our nation to the fundamental virtues and values that made America strong and united in community. Alexis de Tocqueville first identified the “spirit of self-interest rightly understood” in his historic saga, Democracy in America. [...]

By | October 22nd, 2012|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Is philanthropy in the cards?

No matter what you call it, charity, giving, or philanthropy, the topic certainly is not in the mainstream of most conversations whether it’s among friends or family members. In fact, as vital as the giving of time, talent, and money is to the well-being of the fabric of our society, unless you are in the nonprofit profession, the topic is seldom brought up in private or public conversation. One could surmise that it is either taboo or just awkward to know how to start a conversation about giving. Could talking about issues and causes that pain the heart and prod open the checkbook be considered boasting, prying, or self-interest? And if so, how can we change the course of conversation [...]

By | September 12th, 2012|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Are you a “Cultural Creative?”

According to sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson, “Cultural Creatives” are leading-edge creators of a new culture in America in this time of epochal change. There are 50 million people around the world shaping a new agenda for the twenty-first century. In their book, The Cultural Creatives, the authors extrapolate from their research the many ways a person’s values can relate to creating a culture in which reframing helps you look at old problems through a new lens. According to Ray, his research shows “that the more a person is engaged in social activism, ecology, philanthropy, and social justice, the more likely they are to be engaged also in developing their spiritual lives and personal growth. This [...]

By | August 9th, 2012|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Where will your philanthropy be in 2017?

“The difference between who you are now and who you are five years from now comes down to the people you meet and the books you read.” – Anonymous The year 2017 seems like a long way off for most of us, but in the blink of an eye it will fly by. And judging by the rhetoric of the proverbial soothsayers, 2017 may well be a pivotal year for women and philanthropy. Today, and moving forward for the next 60 months, I encourage you to reflect on how the insights gathered from each person you meet – and every book you read – can provide a framework from which to validate the philanthropy you champion. Perhaps a casual conversation will [...]

By | July 19th, 2012|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

What a dragonfly can teach women about philanthropy

“Myth tells us that dragonflies are associated with special characteristics which may remind us of who we are as women,” according to Dorothy Allen, interim senior vice president and chief development officer at Florida Institute of Technology. During my recent visit to the FIT campus to give my keynote speech on “Living a Purposeful Life: Values, Voice and Vision,” Dorothy shared her dragonfly research with the capacity audience. It was amazing to hear that “in almost every part of the world, the dragonfly symbolizes change, and in particular, the change in self-realization and the drive to understand life’s deeper meaning,” Dorothy said. The dragonfly myth I was most familiar with tells the story of the water beetle’s transformation into a [...]

By | June 13th, 2012|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

Trust, Transparency Critical in Philanthropic Quest

County music diva, Kathy Mattea’s lyrics, “Standin’ knee deep in a river and dyin’ of thirst,” could well apply to the quagmire many people get into when they start their philanthropic quest. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) there are more than 1.5 million not for-profit organizations in the United States. How does a caring and motivated person whose values are aligned with the causes they wish to impact chose the organizations to support with their time, talent and treasure? Evaluation agencies such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator efficiently rate the fiscal strength and governance stability of an organization. But how does one learn about the culture of the organization – its unique internal spirit? Is it [...]

By | May 9th, 2012|Categories: Philanthropy|0 Comments

The Energy of Philanthropy

Sixty-seven years ago, a 13-year-old girl caught in the horrors of the holocaust wrote in her diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank believed in the goodness and compassion of people. We certainly need more conspicuous compassion in the world. Today, four out of five people believe we have lost sight of the fundamental values upon which our country was founded. Philanthropy is one of the three sectors by which we participate in community, the other two being the political and corporate sectors. What makes philanthropy special is that it is the closest to the heartbeat of the ethics and values of our society. So the question [...]

By | April 17th, 2012|Categories: Philanthropy|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

March is Women’s History Month – Reflect on “Your Reasons”

“You have your reasons.” It’s the distinctive tagline on a multitude of colorful banners heralding the many consumer delights found at City Place - West Palm Beach, Florida’s popular tourist attraction and shopping center. Conspicuous consumption is the flavor of the day at the plaza. And surely every visitor has a reason (or reasons) for parting with their money, which “makes the world go ‘round.” Like many who work in the downtown area, I frequent City Place for lunch or an after work social hour with friends. This month we were getting together to celebrate Women’s History Month, the theme being “Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment.” In 1987, a congressional resolution was passed designating March as Women’s History Month. Not being [...]