I have just finished an excellent book which gives us a lot to think about in developing our own philanthropy plan. Giving With Confidence: A Guide to Savvy Philanthropy is written by Colburn Wilbur, former CEO of the Packard Foundation with Fred Setterberg co-author of Grassroots Philanthropy and Grantmaking Basics. Their goal is to assist donors who give $5000 to $500,000 a year and trustees of family foundations. People and foundations who give more have access to professionals and have expertise and methodologies in place to ensure responsible giving. This book is for the rest of us. It is chock full of ideas – they believe that donors who approach philanthropy with imagination, courage, energy and persistence can teach all of us how to be better givers.
Giving With Confidence reinforces some of my own philanthropy style and concerns but it also has made me think about expanding my horizons. At the end of this article I’ll discuss my personal giving and what I plan to do to improve it.
Here are a few of Colburn and Fred’s suggestions:
Jump in first – The hardest funding is the first one. Once someone takes the plunge others are willing to consider a project. Ask any nonprofit executive about this and they will tell you how true this is. It takes courage to knowingly support something unproven.
The value of the undramatic gesture provides a great shout out for what is called “Your Best Investment in the Nonprofit Sector: General Operating support”
Exceed your giving comfort level – everywhere – Add a zero to the amount you are giving. Colburn and Fred say that we can all give much more than we do and tells us to imagine ourselves as a much bigger donor than we currently are.
Make your giving courageous, inspiring and imaginative. Imaginative? I’ve never thought of my giving that way but I was really inspired by the great real life examples .
One of the most important concepts I appreciate about this book is the section on establishing values for your philanthropy. Colburn shared the values of the Packard Foundation: Integrity, respect for all people, belief in individual leadership, commitment to effectiveness and the capacity to think big.
Lastly, the chapter entitled “Making Generosity Contagious” deals with such an important concept. I have written and spoken about children and philanthropy and passing our philanthropic values onto them, but the authors suggest passing on your philanthropic values to everyone by talking about them. I especially like the example of a woman who starts up conversations while waiting in line about what people volunteer for and give to. She is making people think about their own giving just by talking about it.
I read though this whole book with a highlighter in hand and believe me it has a lot of yellow highlights. Then I came to the end and there was this neat summary of “Seven Proposals for More Powerful Giving”
2 Provide general operating support over multiple years
3 Tap intermediaries to reach places you’ll never go
4 Include risky grants in your mix
5 Improve your philanthropic skills
6 Embrace creative technology
7 Create a culture of giving
What an awesome summary for truly giving with confidence.
This book has made me think about my own philanthropy. I have been proud of my well thought out approach but now I plan to make some improvements.
Here are the tenets of what my philanthropy has been:
- Focused on the sectors that I think are most important and underfunded
- Specific sectors that I don’t fund at all.
- Systematically divided support among local, national and international causes and different standards of involvement with each.
- I have personal contact with most of the local charities I support. My involvement with a charity getting relatively “major” support from me must be personal. I don’t write a big check – it’s not a big check in the larger scheme of things, but it is for me – without having a first hand connection and involvement.
- Teaching children about philanthropy is very important to me. I know that many people say it is best to encourage children to support their own interests whether it is the animal shelter, zoo or saving trees. But in all honesty, I don’t do that. Part of teaching children about philanthropy is teaching values and so when we have shared our giving it does include our philosophy and why we give to what we do.
What do I plan to change?
My philanthropy has been effective, researched and safe. It is very focused on human needs and education in nearby Newark, NJ, in the nation and in the world. When you go beyond my local charities you will recognize the names of most of my charities. Effective, yes; imaginative or courageous - hardly. Especially because of my connection to Newark and nonprofits there, I have seen how something small can be big. I have helped a child choose a free book at a book fair and seen their eyes and smile get wide. I have mingled with high school students and proud parents in programs that I support and been as proud as a peacock myself.
Now is the time for me to think imaginatively – to do the types of things that have no other chance of funding. I have been very focused on results. Now I want some of my philanthropy to also bring joy and I am willing to try to give “courageously.”
The authors encourage us to give significantly and suggest that once your kids are grown is the perfect time to do this. Well my kids are grown. I’ll have to read that section on the joy of “adding a zero” again. I’ve done that twice and it’s true you get joy in excess of the extra zero when you do it.
I am making a New Year’s resolution for my husband and I to develop a written set of values for our giving. I think this is something important that we can pass on to our children.
As an older person, I have treated talking about my philanthropy more like I would my personal finances and been private about it. But our philanthropy is something we should be proud of and willing to share. I plan to do this too.
If you are interested in putting more thought into how you give, get a copy of Giving With Confidence: A Guide to Savvy Philanthropy today. It is full of easy, practical and inspiring ideas to better giving.