Transformation Through Virtous Philanthropy

Mission: To inspire generations to abundantly fulfill their wealth legacy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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 debate takes center stage in our nation's capitol. If, as a majority of our population believes, the nation's moral compass has lost its true north, neither business nor government (the other two sectors) have as their primary mandate the responsibility to reset the course. In most cases, corporations report to shareholders and government carries our voter mandates. It is philanthropy that listens and responds to the ethical and moral pulse of civil society.

In the November/December 2012 issues the Association of Fundraising Professionals Advancing Philanthropy magazine, I write about the process of collaboration among professionals and why being a "lone wolf" in these uncertain economic times is perilous to the impact and survival of philanthropy.

To read the article in its entirety, click here. (Please be patient while it loads!)

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Monday, October 22, 2012

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. It depicted Americans’ unique role in building and caring for their community – the rich, the poor, and the middle class. He complimented and commented on our forebears’ commitment to help, nurture, give to neighbors and foster vibrant and energetic communities for the public good.

De Tocqueville may not have called such actions “philanthropy,” but they certainly had all the qualities of the “love of humankind,” manifested through philanthropic endeavors of the giving and sharing of time, talent and treasure. He applauded our “habits of the heart,” which ennobles human beings.

The “habits of the heart” are under heavy attack by recent events on the world stage and in the political arena at home. Disunion, disharmony, distrust, destruction and death pervade the planet. Conquest has replaced compassion. Nations are bankrupt in currency and in compromise. Here and abroad we witness governments paralyzed and corporations vilified.

Perhaps it is time for the third sector, philanthropy, to lead in reviving our “habits of the heart” and renewing our faith in humankind’s nurturing and benevolent ways. Perhaps collaboration, communication, and conspicuous compassion can hasten the advent of spring on the horizon for a nation in discontent. What will it take to mobilize the entire philanthropic community to reset our moral compass? What roles can each of us in the philanthropic sector play? Are you willing to accept the challenge?

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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 to include meaningful discussions about charity, giving and philanthropy as it relates to who we are and what we do in our daily lives? Perhaps it is in the cards!

Not just any cards, but rather cards that encourage conversation about what it means to be philanthropic; cards with quotes that not only challenge us but also stimulate our thinking and engage our minds; cards that help us articulate our values and beliefs that inspire our giving plan. Yes, decks of cards with well-crafted, thoughtful open-ended questions that invite enriching dialogue on the topic of giving. I have found three different decks of cards that are extremely useful in getting the conversation started with my donors and clients of every generation – young in age and young in spirit. I encourage you to contact each of the organizations to get a deck.

The 42-card Family Quest Giving Deck is the creative endeavor of 21/64, a nonprofit consulting division of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and Relative Solutions. Each card features one open-ended question, such as “Before today, with whom did you have conversations about giving?” “What knowledge and skills do you bring to your giving?” “When do you say ‘No’ to a request for money?” The deck also includes two wild cards to create your own questions. Imagine sitting around the table or relaxing at a campsite, pulling out a Family Quest Giving Deck and starting a conversation that helps everyone better understand their thoughts and motives for giving. And better yet, it allows them to actually express their feelings on such an important topic.

Trainer and coach, Jan Elfine, EdD, MCC, who specializes in creativity and innovation, designed a 60-card deck of double sided cards, Quotes to Inspire. Questions to Inquire. According to the instructions, “Quotes invite the listener into a way of thinking, the spirit of the quote. The questions then move the thinking along.” For example, the quote from Goethe on one side of the card reads, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. BOLDNESS has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” Turn the card over and the questions are, “How will you be bold? What will you begin?” In a philanthropic context, this could lead one to begin by exploring the website,

From experiences with clients and donors at my Institute for Women and Wealth, I have created a 16-card deck of Value Cards. I believe values frame the story of who you are, what you believe and how you make philanthropic decisions. In the center of each card is a specific value-based word such as “Abundance, Gratitude, Love, and Courage.” There are a few blank cards to fill in with your unique values, too. Many times when I am facilitating a family meeting, I will distribute a set of cards to each family and invite them to spend time individually choosing three of the most significant values that pertain to their current lifestyle. Once the family members come back together, each person has the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about those values that are central to how they make decisions regarding the giving of time, talent and money. It is quite amazing to experience the transformation that takes place as conversations around diverse values often result in love, respect and family unity where misunderstanding and miscommunication had previously harbored discord.

Yes, philanthropy may well be in the cards with a deck stacked in your donor’s favor.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

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 seeking for authenticity is part of what links each person’s own personal growth with the concerns for the big picture.”

Authenticity and concern for the big picture are part of what drives philanthropic energy and sustain a culture that strives to create a more compassionate and harmonious community. For those who will achieve high impact philanthropy, reframing the problem brings about revolutionary solutions while advancing a receptive community of like- minded culture creatives. This receptivity allows for individuals in the community to create an environment in which it is possible for each person to leverage their abilities to the fullest.

Such an environment also helps to restock social capital and serves as a common meeting ground for individuals to bond in purpose by asking “What do you think?” rather than “What do you do?” It is an environment that provides transparency and trust among all who choose to contribute their time, talent and treasure to challenge the status quo and co-create the world we want by reframing the world many see as ugly and out of control.

The energy of philanthropic tenacity and purpose will leave an everlasting footprint as cultural creatives shape the society in which we live. No deed is too small, no gift too large; all are necessary and vital for change and innovation to occur. Each one of us is a cultural creative in our own right. Spread the word.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

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 open your heart to a new cause – one that inspires you to take a chance, get involved and make a commitment for the very first time.

The American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

While it might not always be possible in everyday life to choose the people you meet, you certainly can choose the books you read. The next 60 months (a shorter period than most car loans) is a good time to challenge your normal reading habits and stretch the choices to include books that will enhance your discernment on how best to give of your time, talent, and treasure. Perhaps from reading a specific author’s point-of-view you will gain insight as to how to leverage past experiences in order to bring more compassionate and meaningful giving into your life.

From reading books, you get knowledge. And with knowledge, one has a responsibility to use it wisely in all aspects of life, including how you build relationships with people, and how you go about making your philanthropic decisions. I purposefully select books to review for this e-newsletter each month with the goal to inspire readers to look at the philanthropic aspects of their lives in a more holistic and integrative way, so as to better align who they are with the legacy they wish to leave.

It helps me keep an open mind and an inquisitive attitude about the books people recommend that I read and review. Doing so has added a profound richness to my life and made me evermore conscious of how ‘what we say’ and ‘what we do each day’ is an integral part of creating a “network for the greater good” in our community. I invite you to do the same.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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 beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings designed for flying and seeing the beauty of a whole new world.

As I listened to Dorothy speak, it occurred to me that, yes, the metaphor appropriately describes the dedication of purpose that inspires many of those leading the exponential growth of the women’s philanthropic movement. In my travels, I am meeting lots of dragonflies, passionate about the causes they support with their time, talent and treasure.

History tells us that in prior centuries, women’s philanthropy was traditionally acknowledged more as a “Badge of Citizenship,” an obligation for the greater good of the community. The overt difference in 21st century women’s philanthropic endeavors is that for those who have “spread their wings” and stretched their ability to give larger monetary gifts, there comes a profound feeling of the freedom to see “the beauty of a whole new world.”

Freedom also drives a donor’s transformation from a checkbook giver to being a heartfelt philanthropist. And heartfelt philanthropy often opens the door to a greater understanding of life’s deeper meaning.

“Making my million dollar gift was like jumping off a cliff and then finding out you can fly.” That is how Women Moving Millions donor Jodie Evans describes her experience of giving $1 million to fund the Women’s Media Center to support women in politics and media. Yes, we all may not be able to make a million dollar gift to the causes closest to our heart, yet we all can be dragonflies with the resources we have in our life.

Happy flying! It’s good for the soul.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

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 vibrant, transparent, and respectful of volunteers, staff donors and the population their mission serves? Do the programs and services have the impact and get results that are in sync with the donor’s intentions?

Many of the women my co-author and I interviewed for our book “Women, Wealth and Giving,” cited trust and transparency as two critical elements they look for in the organizations they support. They believe transparency builds trust and is the “tie-that binds” the ethics and integrity of an organization’s culture. Transparency opens communication and creates a safe environment for donors to share ideas as well as financial resources. Trust can inspire more creative solutions for problems when shared ideas lead to looking at things in a fresh new way.

Transparency is part of honoring and living by the Donor Bill of Rights, a document to assure that philanthropy merits the trust and respect of the general public. And one sure way to quench a donor’s thirst for trust and transparency is to invest time in asking serious questions, make frequent visits to the organization as well as the beneficiaries of the organization’s mission, and get involved as a volunteer. Remember, your donation is an investment in the future of the organization, its mission and the community. Transparency and trust set the stage for an energetic and diverse community and keep you from “Standin’ knee deep in a river and dyin’ of thirst.”

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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 is, “How do we energize our personal philanthropic endeavors to create a more compassionate environment in which we want to live, to work and to sustain for future generations?” There is no one answer and there is no magic wand. However, if “nobody need wait a single moment,” then where can we get the energy to begin and maintain the momentum and the faith to believe that we each make a difference in creating a better world?

I suggest there are three personal driving forces from which we get our energy to make a difference: our passion, our purpose and our power.
  • Passion includes the ability to center thoughts and deeds on what we identify in our heart are our greatest desires for the use of our time, talent and treasure.
  • Purpose illuminates the wisdom in our life and helps us focus on giving back and reaching forward to cultivate strength in the next generation, and bridging the past and the future.
  • Power allows us to take responsibility for decisions and to have the freedom to reinforce and amplify how we want our wealth to impact society for the greater good.
If there is one source for our energy, it comes from the values we inherit from the past and the traditions we want to pass on to the future. The extent to which we know and regularly practice our core values greatly determines our capacity to live in the fullness of life with the passion, purpose and power to start improving the world and fueling the energy of our philanthropy.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

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 an advocate of conspicuous consumption, but rather a zealot for conspicuous compassion (a major theme in Women, Wealth and Giving, the book I wrote with Nicki Nicastro McCuistion), I am perhaps more sensitive to being at a commercial venue when celebrating the benevolent accomplishments in U.S. Women’s history. At least that’s what I thought until a fluttering banner got my attention and I stopped to read the tagline: “You Have Your Reasons.”

Hmm… what a timely topic for discussion among modern day women as we honor tenacious and valiant pioneers like Jane Addams, Emma Willard, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Juliette Gordon Low (2012 is the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary) during Women’s History Month.

We could reflect on what their reasons were, and we could openly declare our reasons for celebrating the past. We could also commit to more conspicuous compassion going forward with our time, talent and money to further women’s education and empowerment.

Yes, you (also) have your reasons for engaging in philanthropic and charitable endeavors for the greater good of your family and your community. There is no better time than right now to share a smile, give a hug, write a big check and be conspicuous in your compassion for “Your Reasons.” It’s time we each made our own history count and celebrate every day!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Women give from the heart on Valentine's Day... and year round

Americans are the most generous people on the face of the earth; in fact more people donate than vote. And of this group, the most generous are women, credited by The Economist magazine as “the most powerful engine of global growth.” Click here to read how women are changing the world and visit for more conversations and resources to build a better world.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Heartfelt Giving Supports Healthy Heart Living

February is National Heart Health Month and the Division of Health and Human Services has a national agenda called Million Hearts™ to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. over the next five years. They want to empower more people to reduce sodium and trans fat intake.

Needless to say, this is great news for the physical part of our heart. But what are we doing to enhance the benevolent spirit in our heart? In today’s tumultuous world, what good is a healthy physical heart if the world we live in is ugly, mean-spirited and sick?

In our book, Women, Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation, my co-author Niki Nicastro McCuistion and I write about how the noblest gift a human soul can give to another is the gift of love from the heart. We believe “it is love from the heart that connects, listens, and responds to the pulse of the world crying out for a new spirit of humanity.”

Don’t you just wish we could transplant the benevolent spirit in our heart the same way doctors skillfully transplant the physical wonders of our heart? Yes, reducing sodium and trans fat intake certainly are some of the physical means to maintain health heart. But there is more.

A truly healthy heart is also joyful in spirit. The pulse of the spirited heart is driven by the love of humankind with the zeal, passion and conviction for a more harmonious and just world. A world where diversity is embraced and tolerance manifested for all. The pulse of the spirited heart is the soul of our being, giving us the power to transform the world through our good deeds of time, talent and money for the greater good. A world where the environment is respected and creative thinking encouraged. The pulse of the spirited heart comes alive in each one of us when we listen and follow our unique and personal calling to live by the Golden Rule.

Science may only now be quantifying what philanthropists have known since the beginning of time: A healthy heart is a benevolent heart, pure and mighty with the power to change our life and create the world we want. The world needs each one of us to listen to the spirit in our heart and seize the moment to act with our whole heart – healthy and benevolent.

Carpe Diem! 

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Philanthropy through the Pipeline

Recently something about the name “Pipeline Fellowship” caught my attention as I was surfing the net.

Well, in all honesty it brought to mind strains from the 60s Motown hit, “I heard it through the Grapevine.” I guess it was the rhyme of ‘pipeline’ and ‘grapevine’ that caught my musical ear – but that's where I thought any similarity between the two entities would end. Nevertheless, I’m glad my ear, rather than my eye, made me stop and read. For here is where I found out about a remarkable organization that combines the best of three elements: women, philanthropy, and for-profit social ventures.

Founder and CEO, Natalia Oberti Noguera, launched the Pipeline Fellowship to activate more women angel investors and create more capital directed to women-led for-profit social ventures. Her mission is to train women philanthropists through education, mentoring, and practice.

Each year, 20 Pipeline Fellows, selected from around the country, commit and learn how to invest in a women-led, for-profit enterprise in exchange for equity and a board seat at the end of the training. To my way of thinking, it seems a Pipeline Fellow’s experience heralds in the next phase of Women’s Giving Circles and Impact 100 groups. While these groups provide an educational forum and group of resources to expand women’s philanthropy, the Pipeline carries the process further to offer ownership in a for-profit venture.

Perhaps there is a grapevine connection after all. When the women entrepreneurs get entwined with women social-venture philanthropists, the result may just be a philanthropic hybrid variety, good for the soul and the senses.

To learn more, visit
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year, New Resolutions

It’s that time again. With the new year comes new resolutions.

I meet women of all ages when I’m traveling across the country presenting my “Three Principles of Abundance” lectures, and one commitment I hear loud and clear, and quite frequently, is their resolve to move from conspicuous consumption and commit to live a life centered around conspicuous compassion.

Such an experience helps us get back in touch with the values that shape our thoughts and drive our decisions. A person does not learn conspicuous compassion by doing, but rather by listening and observing – two virtues severely underutilized and too often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of today’s world. The practice of conspicuous compassion is proactive and deliberate in encouraging collaboration, creativity and respect of diversity in thought and tradition.

Conspicuous compassion is contagious – it spreads when an individual chooses to share in the building of a greater understanding of our common humanity – at work, at home, or in the community. The end result is more impactful and meaningful because of the giving of one’s unique time, talent and treasure. Contagious compassion can change the world one good deed at a time.

I challenge you to make a heartfelt effort to move from conspicuous consumption toward conspicuous compassion. I believe that this is a truly achievable resolution that will not only make you feel good, but it will have a positive effect on each and every life you touch.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012!

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