Beware Those Rising Tides

As the head of a philanthropic organization, and as a human being, I am often puzzled by the perception that economic growth is by definition a slum clearance event. It’s the old “rising tides lift all boats” presumption, also called “trickle down” economics.

My bemusement is not partisan or ideological. To be sure, I believe in economic growth. I just wonder how literate people can look at a major growth period like the Industrial Revolution and still think such growth doesn’t create ten slums for every spinning wheel it invents, or that, in an era like ours of massive change in the Developing World, living conditions necessarily improve for the poor. [Read more…]

Science, Not Just Medicine

Let’s look at a wholly fictitious gentleman named Tom Smith. Ever since he was a child, Tom has suffered from a chronic ocular problem. His father and his grandfather were afflicted with the same disorder.

It’s been a real challenge, but not an impediment to success. In fact, Mr. Smith has been very successful in business and, at one point, was able to afford advanced treatment that alleviated his symptoms. He is acutely aware that (a) most people do not have access to this treatment and (b) so much more research can be done to control the disorder. [Read more…]

‘Disaster’ Motivates in Many Ways

The numbers are happily counter-intuitive. Very happily!

According to the philanthropy tracker Atlas of Giving, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, charitable giving rose 12.9% in 2013 over 2012 as Americans donated an impressive $416.5 billion last year. Even better: this surge was no anomaly but rather the third straight yearly increase based on an algorithm incorporating economic, demographic, and event factors. [Read more…]

What Does ‘Entrepreneurial’ Mean Anyway?

In my February 2nd post, I talked about how non-profits need to understand themselves as businesses. While I focused on risk in that context, “business” can also mean infinite things to people, not just specific practices but whole mindsets as well. Mindsets like “entrepreneurial.”

For example, when I last watched the video on this site about Gleaners Food Bank in Indiana – which The Melvin and Bren Simon Foundation proudly supports – the first thing that struck my ear was the use of “entrepreneurial” to refer to the people who founded and operate Gleaners. [Read more…]

Introduction to the Giving Blog

Dear Friends,

There’s no dearth of things to write and talk about on a blog like “Giving.” What we call “giving” – philanthropy is, perhaps, too narrow a term – affects so many people in so many ways that our range of topics is as potentially broad as the human condition.

Giving is not just a simple volitional act. There’s art and science to how donors pick causes to support, and how recipients demonstrate merit. And, there are moral and practical lessons to be learned from every act of giving. We welcome discussion of any examples that provide such lessons.

We encourage all your contributions to “Giving,” including contributions from totally disinterested observers. After all, giving affects the world in which we all live.

How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Not long ago, The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran a good article about how non-profits disserve their own interests with short-sighted practices and ill-advised tactics. I’d like to revisit a few of the items on that laundry list from the perspective of a donor who’s seen too many otherwise meritorious suitors stumble at the altar.

“Ignoring people who make medium-size gifts.” You bet. The Chronicle notes that $500 to $10,000 annual contributions fall through the cracks because fundraisers fear offending small donors with too many solicitations. My advice is that non-profits should therefore identify and focus on strategies that are amenable to these donors – and, importantly, that success here goes beyond the contributions themselves. [Read more…]

Politics: The Bigger the Tent, the Better

There are two broad avenues by which donors support political agendas of one sort or another.

Obviously, one can directly contribute to politicians and PACs. As we know, much controversy swirls around the ethical and social impact of such giving. We take no stand here on those issues, except to suggest that they do indeed merit constant debate, as that debate is at least a safety valve against corruption. [Read more…]