Transformation Through Virtous Philanthropy

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

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 for the global economy is also good for the philanthropic economy. Leading the philanthropic economy, as marketing guru Tom Peters first proclaimed in 1997, are women - “the greatest ‘national’ economy.” And this “greatest economy” is good for every nonprofit organization’s sustainable fiscal health.

Research findings from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University affirm the growing impact of women’s giving leadership in their Women Give 2012 Study.  When taking into consideration factors such as income, education and marital status, a key finding is that “Boomer and older women are more likely to give to charity and give more than their counterparts when other factors affecting giving are taken into consideration.” This study is a follow-up to the Institute’s Women Give 2010 research which found that “Single women are more likely to give to charity and give at a higher level than single men, across most income levels, after accounting for other factors that affect giving.”

The tipping point, in my opinion, for this significant paradigm shift toward boomer women’s more dynamic and purposeful leadership style, occurred in 2006 in an historic one week window of time when three icons in women’s history died. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King died on Jan. 30. The visionary feminist Betty Friedan died a few days later on Feb. 4. Moving forward from this loss, boomer women began not only to unite in their philanthropic mandate for a better world, but also to reassess their strengths to lead in a more compassionate and collaborative way.

You can read more about boomer women and their journey in Women, Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation, the book I co-authored in 2010.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

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 to how to define an organization’s philanthropic impact. It is healthy and it is timely. One element to add to this discussion is the ultimate accountability of the donor who has the freedom to choose when to give, how to give, and to whom to give. Flattery may get more gifts but does it translate into impact or success in the “eye of the beholder” – in this case the philanthropist?

Authors Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman in their book Give Smart encourage donors to follow a process of inquiry around six questions, one being, “What am I accountable for?” And in writing about accountability and characteristics that distinguish philanthropists, they conclude, “the single most consequential may be the fact that they are essentially accountable to no one but themselves.”

Such a reality comes with great responsibility for the donor to get good advice and to set self-imposed standards of excellence to achieve as much impact as possible with the resources available. Is it not virtuous to expect the same of those who accept the donation and those who receive the services? To achieve such excellence requires communication, transparency, honesty, and trust from all participants.

Let the donor dialogue begin!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

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 leadership is still in some ways a prisoner to the myth of scarcity and a mindset of fear. This is especially true for women who are more familiar and comfortable with the traditional giving of time rather than using their money as a forceful commodity to impact social, civic, and cultural agendas in their community.

However, as more women tell their story and talk about why they give and how the power of giving money aligns with their values to create the world they want, it is evident this myth of scarcity and a mindset of fear are diminishing. Abundance is on the horizon. Women are well on their way to becoming leading change agents. And when they partner with nonprofit organizations they can become “hyper-agents” – resulting in a new paradigm for women’s philanthropy. I call this new paradigm the Three Principles of Abundance:

1) Every woman is a philanthropist

2) Every woman has a legacy story

3) Every woman makes a difference

The greatest economy on earth is poised to become the cohort of the greatest philanthropists on earth. Abundance has found a home. 

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

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 want to share them with you.

You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn

You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong

You cannot help little men by tearing down big men

You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred

You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s (and women’s) initiative and independence

And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves

In our modern day world, many believe the strength of our future depends on the compatibility of and respect for diversity. Take time to think and reflect. Humankind is counting on each of us to create the world we want for the common good of all.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

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 quantitative and qualitative measurement of philanthropic impact and organization efficiency?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, and that is why I raise the questions. They have been on my mind ever since meeting Dan Pallotta, author of “Uncharitable” at the 2009 national Partnership for Philanthropic Planning Conference. I do suggest we need an ongoing dialogue on the subject and encourage you to read three recent posts relevant to the subject, available at the links below:

I look forward to your thoughtful responses.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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 $300 billion to charitable causes (only 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, GDP), but spent 50 times as much on politics and 10 times as much on professional sports, according to an article in the fall 2012 issue of Philanthropy Magazine by Adam Meyerson, President of the Philanthropic Roundtable. Two percent! What about three? Meyerson advocates that a “three percent solution” for philanthropy would raise an additional $150 billion, which could make a huge difference as “individuals step up to solve problems without waiting for government to act.”

Two percent we have; three percent and much more is on the wish list. How about a universal buy-in by young adults to annually give one percent, not of GDP, but of earned income? Research from the One Percent Foundation shows that those who start giving early in their lives become even more generous over time. The Foundation leaders believe that philanthropy “should not be driven by income or age, but by the power of collective action to create lasting change.” It is their goal to build a broad based movement for philanthropy by educating and mobilizing young adults to give away at least one percent of income annually and encourage every person to increase the percent over time as incomes grow.

What if all Americans start today to honor a one percent giving pledge? That’s a lot of potatoes! “Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more.” Go team!

Visit for more information.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

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, and deed. It is the interdependence of TLC that can build bridges of trust, foster respect among communities, and opens doors to a culture that is more inclusive of diverse social, economic, religious and political ideology.

Often, when individuals address in meaningful ways the needs for the greater good in their community, they also find peace, happiness, self-satisfaction and a joyful heart. Of the three sectors, nonprofit, corporate, and government, the nonprofit philanthropic sector has the capability to closely monitor the pulse of society and the capacity to more readily discern and respond to society's most urgent needs for a sustainable and vibrant community.

Let's give the philanthropic community a chance to quiet the dreary chatter and lift a heavy heart.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

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 listener?

In my opinion, I think we can if we consciously bring an open and abundant heart to every conversation. To offer an abundant heart is to find ways to limit judgmental attitudes, avoid scripted answers and hasty responses. Offering an abundant heart requires empathy to hear, patience to reflect, and love to understand. The greatest gift of listening comes not with a huge price tag, but rather is free to all who want to take the time and make the effort. When one listens with an abundant heart, one encourages another to speak with an abundant heart, thus opening the pathway to a more harmonious and compassionate world for all -- one listener at a time.

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