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The Philanthropic Initiative Inc.’s strategic philanthropy blog
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05/24
2012

Transitions

I am pleased to announce that TPI is about to embark on a search for a new Managing Partner.

In January, we were thrilled to announce our merger with the Boston Foundation, a partnership that presented many opportunities for TPI and for myself.  Prior to the merger, I was interested in moving out of management to spend more time pursuing a principle that TPI often encourages clients to practice – passion.  I get the most joy from working with our clients and developing strategic initiatives – both of which I have had less time to participate in while occupying the corner office. 

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05/10
2012

What Business Do Community Foundations Have In Business?

What business does a community foundation have hawking for-profit deals to its donors and other community members?  How does it improve the quality of life in their community?  How does it promote the spirit and practice of philanthropy and service?   Well it turns out, some community foundations think that it has plenty of relevance to both goals.

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04/26
2012

Exploring the roles for philanthropy between soccer balls and coffee beans

In my last blog we looked at Tony Blair’s view on philanthropy’s role in repairing the fraying social contract. The former prime minister cited philanthropy as risk capital and the means by which one can disrupt instead of maintain the status quo. Blair sees philanthropy as creative and adventurous – an opportunity to venture where government dare not go, but also an opportunity to inspire and push government to change itself.

This week I had the opportunity to engage the veteran foreign correspondent and author Stephen Kinzer and the Rwandan ambassador to the U.S. in a related conversation on the  roles of government and philanthropy in developing countries – a discussion that sounded  very different than Mr. Blair’s perspective and that turned again and again towards the role of business.

In reflecting on the relationship between philanthropy and government,  Kinzer brought us back to the not so distant days when consensus was that governments were the only credible provider of developmental aid, and business was inherently evil and only there to exploit vulnerable countries. Fast forwarding to today,

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04/19
2012

Philanthropy, government and our fraying social contract

Jane Wales opened The Global Philanthropy Forum this week with the idea that today’s social contract is fraying – but also evolving. The social contract she speaks of is the means by which societies allocate priorities and resources when addressing shared problems – or more simply put, the understanding that we must all look out for one another.  In his special address to GPF delegates, Former Prime Minister and head of three foundations, Tony Blair, was more poignant in stating that when any community focuses in on their own challenges – as many must do during these financially challenging times – we lose the appetite to help others.

So what is the role of philanthropy in reinvigorating the social contract?

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04/17
2012

What is going on here?

Below is the introduction to a talk that Peter Karoff presented recently at a breakfast hosted by The Boston Foundation and The Philanthropic Initiative.  Download the full text.

 

For many good and proper reasons there is within the field of philanthropy a strong focus on results, on impact, and what overall has been termed effectiveness. At the same time, there is concern that an over-reliance on data, metrics, and evaluation is somehow in opposition to a mission-centered approach to philanthropy. Terms like “hyper-rationalism” and “managerialism”[i] seem counter to creativity and may potentially inhibit risk-taking. We aspire to certainty, but there are many nuanced influences on effectiveness that are difficult to capture, and that are sometimes elusive.

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04/09
2012

Yo Yo Ma – A Gifted Giver

Last week Yo Yo MA was in Santa Barbara as part of the UCSB Arts & Lectures series, and while his 300-year-old cello was on the stage, what the audience mostly got was a remarkable creative, artistic and personal memoir, as Mr. Ma reflected on his development as a musician, performing artist, global citizen, and father.

 

The presentation felt more like one was sitting across the table from Yo Yo at a lively dinner at the St. Botolph Club inBoston, where in fact he sometimes goes. Ma framed his comments with these lines from T. S. Elliot:

 

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

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03/22
2012

Road Blocks on the Path to Strategic Giving

Given all the opportunities donors have to move themselves to a higher level of strategic thinking and giving, why do some donors never get there or get stuck, particularly at the “getting it” stage?  Why do some potential trigger points – such as generational transition or finding a passion – fail to result in strategic giving?

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03/20
2012

Off the beat path – what else to consider

Every donor takes a different strategic journey and, though many pass through similar stages, there are important factors that defy categorization by stage because they can be influential at so many different points in time. Whether you’re an advisor looking for the opportunity to catalyze a donor’s giving or a member of a family foundation searching for a way to get others into a more strategic mindset, these additional factors may help move some to the next step. 

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03/15
2012

Could John Wayne be the world’s most effective philanthropist?

Earlier this week, Jim Coutre attended the 2012 GEO National Conference in Seattle, which discussed new ideas for smarter grantmaking and greater impact.  Below is a guest post he wrote for Beth Kanter, author, blogger, social media guru and nonprofit networker.  Visit Beth’s blog for more posts from the GEO Conference and follow her on Twitter @kanter.

 

“Social change is incremental at best,” Peter Karoff loves saying, quoting Mike Sviridoff and wagging his finger. It’s a marathon. Like many in this field, I’ve become exceedingly interested in figuring out what it takes to move change along faster. Thus, I went into Jonah Lehrer’s GEO breakfast plenary looking for insight into how to spark creative new solutions to the inextricable barriers that impede rapid change.

Jonah gave a number of wonderful examples of where and how break-through ideas are born. He pointed to the power of “outsider” thinking that works without the conscious and subconscious constraints that come with experiences; and he reminded us of Albert Einstein’s belief that “creativity is the residue of wasted time.”   But for me, the morning’s top takeaway was not about coming up with the newest, freshest idea. While it would be wonderful if each and every donor came up with their own game-changing ideas, I don’t recommend we hold our collective breath for that to happen.

In the space between the revolutionary ideas, what can help a philanthropist be more successful in bringing about their vision for social change?

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01/23
2012

Steps in the Strategic Journey

Whether you’re an advisor working to help a donor achieve more, or a donor interested in positioning yourself to move up the philanthropic curve, understanding the stages along the journey to more strategic giving can be quite valuable. In my last post, I described the stages that donors generally arrive at before becoming strategic, but what makes a donor more or less likely to progress from one stage to the next? And how can one tell when a donor is ready to take (or be nudged to) that next step? I provide several qualities below and, while some may consider this categorization of factors into stages artificial, we think it is useful when considering appropriate strategies for donor development.

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