When I returned to consulting, I thought I’d have more time to blog. As the first few months have unfolded, that didn’t happen. Instead, two big projects consumed my reading, research, and creative energies. You might find some of the books useful additions to your own reading list and digital or physical bookshelf.
I was asked to write a chapter for a book on the history of philanthropy in Pittsburgh, to be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2016. The Philanthropy Forum at GSPIA is leading the project. To prepare for the chapter, I grounded myself in some of the seminal history books on philanthropy. None of the books were easy summer beach reading, but any of them would be useful to people new to, or wanting to join, the world of foundations and grantmakers.
- A Versatile American Institution (David C. Hammack and Helmut K. Anheier, 2013) focused on the changing practices and norms of foundations, starting in the 1800s and diving more deeply into foundations’ growth in the 20th
- Inventing the Nonprofit Sector (Peter Dobkin Hall, 1992) looked at the growth of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors and their roles in shaping American society.
- Philanthropy in America – Olivier Zunz (2012) focused on the ever-changing relationships between the philanthropic and government sectors and how those relationships shaped, and were shaped by, different historic periods.
I’m also working toward the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® certification through three online graduate courses at the American College. The courses mix online lectures with books and downloaded reading materials (sooooo many downloads….). The materials are useful to fundraising and planned giving staff and to professional advisors working with philanthropic individuals and families. Four highlights include:
- Give Smart (Thomas Tierney and Joel Fleishman), one of the key books in the movement to encourage donors and foundations to be strategic, focused, and proactive in their giving. Even if a donor doesn’t want to burdened with the work or label of “strategic philanthropy,” the book is full of good questions for self-reflection.
- Planned Giving in a Nutshell (Craig Wruck, 4th, 2013) is a useful resource to nonprofit staff who aren’t in gift planning roles but need to know the basics and have quick access to sample forms and policies.
- The Right Side of the Table (Scott Fithian and Todd Fithian, 2007) is helps financial planners and other advisors move from a sales process to long-term discernment and trusted advisor roles. It is also a useful window into the minds of those advisors for nonprofit fundraising and gift planning staff.
- Wealth in Families (Charles Collier, 3rd, 2012) is a must-have for exploring the meaning of wealth, how families can use it, and how they can pass on healthy values around money to children and other heirs. I had read it a few years ago, and it was definitely worth reading again.
I did read one book unrelated to those assignments, and I highly recommend it to leaders at businesses, foundations, and nonprofits:
- Matterness (Allison Fine, 2014) provides a valuable framework for how organizations can have more authentic, two-way conversations with the public and their customers/constituents. It looks at issues of organizational culture, building healthy online and in-person communities, social media, effectively connecting with crowds, and more. It’s a great follow-up to the book Fine wrote with Beth Kanter, The Networked Nonprofit, in 2010.
Next on my reading list are:
- The Social Profit Handbook (David Grant, 2015), a new resource on impact assessment for nonprofits, social enterprises, and foundations. David also has his own recommendations for a foot-long bookshelf.
- Understanding the Social Economy of the United States (Mook, Whitman, Quarter and Armstrong, 2015), a dive into the landscape of the business of social good beyond charitable nonprofits, including social economy businesses, local development enterprises, government-driven nonprofits, and mutual associations.
- New Frontiers of Philanthropy (Lester Salamon, editor, 2014), a thick guide to the new tools and actors reshaping philanthropy and social investing. Its 24 chapters cover the gamut from giving circles to equity investments, and from crowdfunding and prize philanthropy to quasi-public investment funds. In full, transparency, I probably won’t read every chapter word-for-word…
What great books about philanthropy are you reading this year?
When I’m asked to speak, I describe myself in three roles – philanthropist, philanthropoid, and philanthropy geek. The more practice I have in living out each of those roles, the more I find myself returning to three core beliefs:
- Philanthropy – voluntary action for the public good – is a big tent concept. It is too often devalued to only mean tax-deductible gifts to charitable organizations.
- A wide variety of values and purposes, often unvoiced, drive the voluntary philanthropy of individuals, businesses, and grantmakers. Too many messages from nonprofit staffers, advocates, program officers, and consultants demean the welcome diversity of values and purposes.
- There is no one right tool for philanthropic action. Philanthropists can choose from many legal structures (or lack thereof) and strategies and each structure and strategy has its own advantages. There are too many articles and conference sessions claiming one tool is wrong or one strategy is the most correct.
I’ve struggled to incorporate those beliefs into an easy graphic or two. My latest iterations came when preparing for a “Navigating 21st Century Giving Trends” workshop for the Bayer Center of Nonprofit Management and the “Strategic Grantmaking Deep Dive Day” for the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance.
The first graphic mapped three types of philanthropic action – investing, buying, and giving (cash, time and other resources) – and three recipients of that action – nonprofits (and government agencies), businesses of all types, and individuals. During the “Navigating 21st Century Giving Trends” workshop, we discussed trends in philanthropy and filled in the chart. It resulted in this:
The second graphic was for the “Deep Dive Day” and attempted to group the tools available to philanthropists and grantmakers into three headline strategies – impact, influence, and leverage. Credit goes to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections Initiative for the three headlines, and to many other funders for the tools in use.
Some of the ideas in the graphics are long-standing practices. Some are newer, evolving signals from the future of philanthropy. My sense is that an increasing number of donors, grantmakers, social innovators, and everyday people are purposely using multiple tools. They may have different terms for the tools and strategies, but they’re sharing in a belief that they can deploy their resources for social good in multiple ways. America’s largest two demographic groups are driving the trends:
- Baby Boomers currently provide 43% of the money donated to charities and are the largest demographic in Congress and state legislatures, in nonprofit executive director roles, and on the Forbes 400. As they transition into retirement years, will have even more time to use their resources and talents to accomplish social and public policy goals.
- Millennials will make up at least half of the workforce by 2020. They actively commit their time, money, and networks for causes and don’t mind if those causes aren’t managed by charitable organizations. They expect companies to be involved with causes and proactively seek options to buy from and invest in businesses that have positive social and environmental results.
Both graphics pack in too many complex ideas to stand well on their own. And, both are works in progress. I’m offering them up for your feedback and comments. Do the frameworks make sense? Am I missing key tools and ideas? I welcome your thoughts!
How do philanthropic families involve younger generations in giving? How do those families think about strategy, impact, and legacy? How are they using staff, advisors, and services such as Donor-Advised Funds? Which financial and volunteer roles are family members taking?
There is surprisingly little data on these and other characteristics of philanthropic families. That will soon change, thanks to the new Trends In Family Philanthropy Study by the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP) and Urban Institute. The research is being conducted in May and June of 2015 and the results will be released at NCFP’s National Forum on Family Philanthropy in October.
I joined the project’s advisory committee last fall because (you guessed it) I’m a philanthropy geek. More importantly, I know that philanthropic families frequently ask questions about how peers are handling a variety of giving, governance, and management issues. This study will be a terrific resource to the families and their staff and advisors, and it will be repeated and updated over time.
The Urban Institute is reaching out to a random sample of private, family foundations. NCFP is more broadly surveying philanthropic families, regardless of the tools they might be using (foundation, charitable gift fund, bank trust, etc.) and regardless of small or immense grantmaking/giving budgets.
Here’s where YOU come in!
Are you part of a family that purposefully practices philanthropy together? Do you staff or serve philanthropic families? Then please encourage the family (one response per family) to complete the confidential survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2015-Trends-Non-foundations. It is about 50 questions and will take 25-30 minutes or so. You can also pass along the opportunity on social media using the hashtags #familygiving and #trendsresearch.
And, if you know folks at the William Penn Foundation or J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, please thank them for providing major funding for the research.