Giving Well

Now, more than ever.

Now, more than ever, the basic beliefs behind philanthropy are critical to our country.

It’s an over-used crutch in the philanthropic sector to start any commentary with the definition of philanthropy as the love of people, so, please, indulge me: A love of people. A feeling of generosity. The knowledge that one person, one gift, one organization, one community can make a change.

Now, more than ever, our country needs a love of people that is not qualified.

A love of people that is not dependent on political party, or red vs. blue, or poll numbers. Uniting our country needs to start with each of us, with each of our families, our schools, our communities, and our states.

Now, more than ever, our country must work for all people.

Our country must work for people who have grown up in generational poverty, and people who are new to our country. People of color, and people who have disabilities. People who have poor health, and people who didn’t make it through high school. People surviving violence at home, and people who have survived violence in the military. People who are elderly, and people who have just been born. People who want to marry the  person they love, and people who want to worship the god they love. People who drink public water, and people who have college debt. We are that country, and we are those people. And, we must work for it, and for each other.

Our collective philanthropy is more critical than ever to protect, uplift, and cherish humanity. Now, more than ever, the love of people must win.

Responding to Orlando

We are all heartsick over the horrific shooting in Orlando: the worst mass shooting in the United States since the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, and squarely targeted at the LGBTQ community. While first reactions to such a tragedy often range from grief to fury, many then feel moved to action. This is a time to consider what may be a gift out of the norm – whether you may find yourself giving out of cycle, or outside of your focus areas, or  giving to the LGBTQ community for the first time. Let the grief that has broken open your heart also break open your grantmaking, and consider what philanthropic response feels right to you:

SUPPORTING THE SURVIVORS

Equality Florida‘s Pulse Victim Fund has raised over $4.2M from over 92,000 people as of this writing, including a $100,000 gift from GoFundMe itself. That’s quite a statement. Equality Florida will work with the National Center for Victims of Crime and local partners to distribute the funds.

SUPPORTING LGBTQ CENTERS

Find and support your local LGBTQ center wherever you live by checking CenterLink, the national association of LGBTQ community centers.

The Center, which is the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, is one of the organizations supporting on-the-ground support for victims and families, including transportation, funerals, obituaries, counseling, and pet assistance. You can support their efforts here.

For my fellow Vermonters, our center is the Pride Center of Vermont (formerly the RU12? Community Center) which works to advance the health and safety of LGBTQ Vermonters. Their demonstration in support of the victims brought together over 2,000 people in Burlington this week.

JOIN A COMMUNITY OF FUNDERS

Funders for LGBTQ Issues has been guiding funders on making investments in the LGBTQ community since 2000. Check out their excellent resources for funders, and consider joining.

In Vermont, we can access philanthropic guidance on supporting the LGBTQ community through the Samara Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation. Your gift supports their work in promoting philanthropy by and for the LGBTQ community throughout the state.

No matter how one chooses to respond, when philanthropy is an integral part of our lives, it feels right to respond philanthropically. Perhaps the silver lining of this horrific event, if there can be one, is the individual opportunity we have to consider our relationship to the LGBTQ community specifically, and to the desire for a peaceful and accepting civil society generally, and how we can each express that relationship through our giving.

#westandwithorlando #orlando #philanthropy #loveislove

Toxin Free Kids

Calling early education programs in Vermont! Have you been wanting to upgrade those old nap mats? Or figure out how afford the cost of sprucing up with VOC-free paint?

The Seventh Generation Foundation has just released guidelines for their new Vermont Community Building grant round: Toxin Free Kids.

From the good folks at Seventh Generation: “We believe that during the critically important early childhood years, young Vermonters deserve an environment free from indoor air pollution and toxins. To that end, we are offering grants to non-profit child care centers and preschools for green facility improvements and to purchase non-toxic equipment.” The very simple applications are due May 16, 2016.

Here at Forward Philanthropy, we are honored to continue supporting the Seventh Generation Foundation in their philanthropy. Let’s join forces to nurture the health of the next seven generations: Toxin Free Kids_2016 Guidelines

Not a Pig with a Waltham Watch

I remember sitting at Con Hogan’s kitchen table, almost 10 years ago, as he succinctly explained how he had pioneered the then-radical concepts of government accountability and measurable outcomes as Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services. We were at his farm in Plainfield, I was the nascent Executive Director of the Permanent Fund for Vermont Children, a supporting foundation of the Vermont Community Foundation, and Con was my board member. A couple diagrams sketched on the back of a piece of paper, and – bam! – he illustrated the nationally recognized outcomes work that still drives so many people and organizations around world today to improve the well-being of their citizenry.

Con’s innovative ideas and his focused determination to get results transformed the largest agency in state government and improved well-being for every Vermonter, but, in typical fashion, he credited everyone else for the miracles he wrought, including, not in order, the Republican and Democratic governors under whom he served, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, other forward-thinking state government staff, and the non-profits who do good work every day in their communities.

That day, Con challenged me to figure out how to apply those concepts of accountability and measurable outcomes to philanthropy. He somehow managed to both set the bar fantastically high, yet also supported me as I struggled to reach it — meaning that I was fortunate enough to count Con as my mentor, as do so many others around the country.

In the ensuing years, we developed a tradition of carpooling to Permanent Fund board meetings. In theory, this meant that we met at the Berlin park and ride, and I drove us to the site visits and board meetings we held around the state, from nonprofit board rooms to prison visiting rooms. In practice, this meant that we launched into fiery debates on human services, corrections policy, and how to create sustainable change with private grantmaking as soon as our seat belts were buckled, and an hour later, one of us would eventually look out the window and say, “Where the heck are we?” as we bumped down some back road, with me having completely lost track of the directions I had so carefully composed in advance. (Truthfully, when we realized we were lost, the language was far more colorful than that, and typically included one of Con’s multitudes of euphemisms, that I often crossed my fingers hoping to hear. “A pig with a Waltham watch” is one of my favorites.) We became infamous for being the first to leave home for board meetings, and the last to arrive.

Con’s guidance sticks with me today. Five years ago, when I was doing feasibility testing in advance of starting Forward Philanthropy, I again asked for Con’s advice. He encouraged me to move forward to found this philanthropic advising firm — well, no, it wasn’t really encouragement, he gave me no choice but to press the “go” button. “Vermont needs this! Heck, philanthropy needs this!” he insisted. After that little mentoring session, there was no going back: Con is a force to be reckoned with.

So, it is a marvelous tribute for the Vermont Community Foundation to launch the “Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial, Community Leadership”. Please join me in making a gift to the VCF to support the award of $15,000 to a mid-career community leader with Con Hogan’s vision and commitment to making a difference, results, and community connection. And, come see the inaugural award being presented to the amazing Ellen Kahler, of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, on Thursday, October 8, 4:00 – 6:00, at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier (click to RSVP). I am sure it will be an inspiring event, but I just wish that the criteria for the award had included the ability to employ well-timed euphemisms.

Giving Well in Sandy’s Wake

When I posted this commentary on the anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene in August, no one knew that we would again need guidance on giving in the wake of a disaster so soon (well, perhaps Al Gore knew, but that’s fodder for a different commentary).  Even as many eastern states are still reeling from Sandy’s impact, many thoughtful philanthropists will begin wondering how to be most effective with their disaster giving.

So, allow me to re-issue the below commentary that describes the new Center for Disaster Philanthropy.  Take a moment to visit their “Hurricane Sandy Hub” where you can learn about the most current philanthropic and non-profit response, and the Center’s own Hurricane Sandy Disaster Fund.  Heck, you can even call them for advice on giving: (206) 972-0187.

Given our recent hurricane experiences, we now know that the recovery from Sandy must a relentless effort in the days and weeks to come.  So too can we anticipate the relentless fundraising pitches from non-profits claiming to be the lead in the recovery effort.  Private philanthropy will be key to the recovery, so please give — just be sure to give well.

……………………………………………………………….

When Tropical Storm Irene rampaged through Vermont one year ago today, it left homes flooded, fields covered in debris — and donors overwhelmed.  The charitable impulse was strong, but where to give?  What organization would use the funds most effectively?  Who understood the challenges on the ground, and had the trust of local communities to address them?

These are questions with which every donors struggles in the face of disaster.  From the earthquake in Haiti, to the tsunami in Japan, to Tropical Storm Irene, the question of how to strategically give surfaces with every breaking story of disaster.

In the midst of the chaos, we thankfully welcome the new Center for Disaster Philanthropy: disasterphilanthropy.org. The Center is being incubated by the New Venture Fund, with diverse private foundation funding and in-kind support from Arabella Advisors.  With a highly experienced board and staff, including former Guidestar CEO Robert G. Ottenhoff at the helm, the Center is poised for impact.

Concerned about Hurricane Isaac advancing up the coast?  Click on “Where” and read about the philanthropic collaborations gearing up.  Wondering what has happened in Haiti since the earthquake?  Read the update and review current recommendations for giving. Or, to prepare for the next disaster, peruse the best practices in disaster grantmaking.

For Vermont funders, Irene’s one year anniversary is also a time to recognize the Vermont Community Foundation‘s leadership in raising, managing and directing Irene-related philanthropic resources.  VCF’s Flood Response website makes it simple to track giving recommendations and funds available, plus their effort to make all the dollars in and dollars out as transparent as possible is laudable.

These two resources change the landscape of disaster giving significantly, however, a gap still remains for funders.  The question of how to resolve an unplanned gift for a disaster in the context of one’s other charitable giving still remains.  You might be moved to give in response to Hurricane Isaac, however, your pledge to the local capital campaign must be paid and you still want to be philanthropically active in the arts and environmental sectors.  What to do?  Above all else, stay focused.  Look for opportunities for disaster giving to dovetail with your identified priorities, and apply the knowledge you’ve developed from giving in a particular sector, for instance, the arts, to disaster giving within the same sector.

Despite all our wishes otherwise, we know that hurricanes will ravage the best laid plans, floods will wash good intentions away, and wildfires will burn holes in budgets every year.  However, philanthropists have the opportunity now to plan for the unplannable.

New Resource for Giving Well in Disasters

When Tropical Storm Irene rampaged through Vermont one year ago today, it left homes flooded, fields covered in debris — and donors overwhelmed.  The charitable impulse was strong, but where to give?  What organization would use the funds most effectively?  Who understood the challenges on the ground, and had the trust of local communities to address them?

These are questions with which every donors struggles in the face of disaster.  From the earthquake in Haiti, to the tsunami in Japan, to Tropical Storm Irene, the question of how to strategically give surfaces with every breaking story of disaster.

In the midst of the chaos, we thankfully welcome the new Center for Disaster Philanthropy: disasterphilanthropy.org. The Center is being incubated by the New Venture Fund, with diverse private foundation funding and in-kind support from Arabella Advisors.  With a highly experienced board and staff, including former Guidestar CEO Robert G. Ottenhoff at the helm, the Center is poised for impact.

Concerned about Hurricane Isaac advancing up the coast?  Click on “Where” and read about the philanthropic collaborations gearing up.  Wondering what has happened in Haiti since the earthquake?  Read the update and review current recommendations for giving. Or, to prepare for the next disaster, peruse the best practices in disaster grantmaking.

For Vermont funders, Irene’s one year anniversary is also a time to recognize the Vermont Community Foundation‘s leadership in raising, managing and directing Irene-related philanthropic resources.  VCF’s Flood Response website makes it simple to track giving recommendations and funds available, plus their effort to make all the dollars in and dollars out as transparent as possible is laudable.

These two resources change the landscape of disaster giving significantly, however, a gap still remains for funders.  The question of how to resolve an unplanned gift for a disaster in the context of one’s other charitable giving still remains.  You might be moved to give in response to Hurricane Isaac, however, your pledge to the local capital campaign must be paid and you still want to be philanthropically active in the arts and environmental sectors.  What to do?  Above all else, stay focused.  Look for opportunities for disaster giving to dovetail with your identified priorities, and apply the knowledge you’ve developed from giving in a particular sector, for instance, the arts, to disaster giving within the same sector.

Despite all our wishes otherwise, we know that hurricanes will ravage the best laid plans, floods will wash good intentions away, and wildfires will burn holes in budgets every year.  However, philanthropists have the opportunity now to plan for the unplannable.

Leadership, Ethics, and Philanthropy: Handing the Torch to the Millennials

The Millennial Generation’s interest in volunteerism and community service is well-documented.  It’s safe to predict that this generation will serve as an example for us all of how to build lives around one’s personal values.  But where can Millennials go to take these ingrained interests to the next level?  How can they access the learning of existing leaders in the philanthropic and business sectors, and shape their own commitment to service-oriented leadership?  Former business management consultant Dave Aldrich has responded to that need by founding Grab The Torch.

This week-long camp provides the opportunity for diverse campers to explore topics centered around leadership, ethics and philanthropy.  In the words of one camper, “Grab the Torch camp taught me to have the guts to go and follow my passion without turning back.”  With camps happening in Vermont, Colorado and Connecticut, Aldrich is hoping to have significant impact on  the next generation of leaders.

The Vermont Community Foundation is partnering with Grab The Torch to make possible 20 full and partial scholarship opportunities for the 2012 Grab The Torch Leadership Ethics and Philanthropy Summer Camp Institute.  The scholarship opportunity is open to rising first year high school students to rising first year college students.  The 2012 camp is August 12-17 at the Bishop Booth Conference Center on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont.  Speakers, site visits and panelists include:

  • Rick Davis, President, Permanent Fund for the Well-Being of Vermont Children;
  • Christine Zachai, Principal, Forward Philanthropy;
  • The Webb Family, founders of Shelburne Farms;
  • June Heston, Executive Director of the Burton’s Chill Foundation,
  • Burton Snowboard Factory;
  • Youth Trade;
  • Nan Peterson, the 2012 Service Learning Educator of The Year;
  • Hal Colston, Executive Director, Vermont Commission on National and Community Service;
  • Jon Isham and Heather Neuwirth, Middlebury College Center for Social Entrepreneurship;
  • Ben & Jerry’s;
  • Lois McClure, J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation;
  • Stu Comstock-Gay, President and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation;
  • Paul Schervish, Director, Boston College Wealth and Philanthropy Institute;
  • Ken Berger, President and CEO, Charity Navigator;
  • Lauren Curry, Executive Director of Tarrant Foundation

Applicants must be full or part time residents of Vermont. The application process can be found online at www.grabthetorch.org. For additional information, contact Dave Aldrich at 781-864-5758 or daldrich@grabthetorch.org

The Future Of Philanthropy Is With The Cupcake Bakers

Last week I was sitting in Manhattan with four extraordinary women.  Down the table from me was Jennifer Buffet, President and Co-chair of the NoVo Foundation; Chair and CEO of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, Catherine B. Reynolds; Josefina Vázquez, Executive Director of the Boston Women’s Fund; and Karen Osborne, President of The Osborne Group.  We were panelists charged with discussing “the changing face of philanthropy” for the Sixteenth Annual Philanthropic Round Table on Women and Philanthropy convened by Miss Hall’s School and faced with an knowledgeable and engaged audience.

Those of us tagged as “experts” charged forth into discussion about the impact of the economic downturn on philanthropists, we called for private funders to consider untraditional partners such as government or business, we challenged the funding community to take more risks and be more transparent about our failures.  We discussed philanthropy’s role in economic development, the effect of violence against women in the developing world, and the personal responsibility inherent in making funding decisions.

And, as those of us who have been witnesses to such panels know, it’s not consensus, but rather a bit of disagreement that makes for memorable panel discussions.  Interesting then, that the memorable moments of this panel were not born out of discussion of gender, money or politics.  No, it was age that started sparks flying – specifically, the difference in philanthropic values and practice between generations.  For, as much conversation on “women philanthropists” as there is among philanthropy geeks such as myself, there is nothing homogenous about either women or philanthropists.  In fact, the greatest differences among North American philanthropists may not be due to gender, but to age.

Much of the research on philanthropy (that is assumed to represent philanthropists broadly) has actually only considered the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, and Baby Boomers.  Generation X’ers are minimally represented; Millennials are often not even on the radar screen.  The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University made a significant contribution with their 2010 report showing that, across all five generations and both genders, the percentage of individuals who choose to give is fairly consistent (77 – 89%).

But what do we know about how younger generations differ in philanthropic practice and priorities between generations, especially with so little focus on younger philanthropists?  One of the most illuminating discussions I have heard was from Shannon Farley of Spark, speaking during a recent Arabella Advisors webinar.  She described Millennials as do-ers: entrepreneurial, motivated donors who require choice, are comfortable with capitalism and therefore who see giving as “fee for service”, and who want opportunities for leadership (now!).  Farley’s strategies to engage Millennials should be required listening for the many Boomer parents seeking to involve their Millennial children in their family foundation.  But the concept of philanthropy as “fee for service” – an intellectual decision to buy a charitable outcome – was reprehensible to some in the room, and foreign to many.  What happened to giving because it is “the right thing to do”?  What happened to the “joy of giving”?  This is just one of many generational differences that we need to understand – and embrace – in the philanthropic sector.

So, with this new generation of passionate philanthropists in mind, the most inspiring women in the room were not those of us sitting behind the table as panelists.  Rather, it was the six young women from Miss Hall’s School who were in attendance.  As founders of MAPS (Mira’s Alliance for Philanthropic Sustainability), they are now well known on campus for the cupcakes that they bake and sell to raise money for their group.  They choose to use their earned revenue not to fund field trips or purchases for their school, but to invest in micro loans to women in third world countries.  As high school students, they have a level of global awareness and personal responsibility that many of us are still struggling to develop as adults.  These young women were cognizant of their role as future leaders, and already embracing an identity as donor-activists that we were struggling to articulate as panelists.

For those of us older than 30, it’s our responsibility to understand this passionate, inspired, entrepreneurial generation of millennials, to challenge ourself to re-think the dated methods we have of enaging young people, and to be willing to build access to leadership in the boardroom, in the workplace, and in our communities.  In other words, we need to be willing to share power with the cupcake bakers – or find ourselves left out of the kitchen.

A gift for the next generation of non-profit leadership

Vermont’s non-profit professional development program is accepting registration now for their winter courses. Consider making a grant to your favorite growing non-profit to support the next generation of leadership:

Certificate in Nonprofit Management

Registration is now open for the Winter 2012 session of Marlboro College’s highly-regarded professional development Certificate in Nonprofit Management. Choose to take the series at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, or at the Marlboro College Graduate School in Brattleboro. The program meets for ten Fridays, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, beginning January 20. Financial aid from Marlboro College is available to applicants with financial need; our students have also been successful securing aid from external sources. To learn more, contact Kate Jellema, Program Director:  katej@marlboro.edu or (802) 451-7510, or visit us on the web at www.nonprofit.marlboro.edu.

Are there elephants in your portfolio?

Foolishly, I did not expect the onslaught.  It began in earnest in July, when I innocently struck up a chatty conversation with the owner of the Cape Cod hotel where my family was staying.  Upon learning that I was a philanthropic advisor, he exclaimed, “You have to talk with my friend who is running a non-profit!”  Carefully tucking my business card into his wallet, he pronounced, “You’ll love her, and she’s doing such great work.”  In my sand-and-sun dazed state, I amiably agreed.  Within the hour, there was a voicemail on my phone from the eager Executive Director, whom I realized was based in California.  We played phone tag for weeks after, and I grew accustomed to having “Los Angeles” appear on my list of voicemail messages.

When we finally spoke, it was the Monday after Irene had devastated so many communities in our state.  Like so many others that day, I was still struggling to comprehend the enormity of the disaster – the homeless families, the communities that had been swamped or cut off, the farm fields buried in silt – when “Los Angeles” popped up on my phone again.  After exchanging pleasantries, the sunny Executive Director launched into a 30-minute monologue describing her organization, which, among other projects, owned an African elephant sanctuary championed by movie stars.

I like elephants as much as the next person.  I support the value of land conservation for wildlife, and I can even stretch to acknowledge the value of celebrity endorsements to certain audiences.  However, as I held the phone in central Vermont, stunned and worried about the devastation wrought by Irene, it was a surreal conversation, and I could only think, “Elephants?  Really?  And, am I supposed to know who Kelly Preston is?”

After years leading foundations, and therefore both welcoming and expecting the engagement with the non-profit sector, I assumed that once I had stepped down from that role, I would no longer be on the must-call list for non-profits.  In hindsight, of course I should have realized that by starting a philanthropic advising firm, the calls would only increase.  Just while writing this piece, I received an email message from a passionate community leader in southern Vermont, hoping I might be able to direct help to a non-profit, saying, “they lost all of their public funding in the recent federal cuts and are now out and about begging organizations to purchase memberships for their services.  We, of course, have also lost all kinds of funding, and are not in any position to be of any help.  It was all very sad.”

No matter the reason – from statewide disasters like Irene to the Lamoille County organization whose computers were fried by lightning, to ongoing federal and state budget cuts, or the increased demand for human services in the wake of both the recession and Irene – almost every organization is on a spectrum that ranges from pinched for cash to full financial crisis.  And, I am certainly not alone in fielding an inordinate number of requests for help: so many philanthropists, foundations, and corporations face the challenge of overwhelming demand for limited charitable funds.

So, how to respond?  How does one allocate limited resources in situations of limitless need?  There has been more and more writing on how to handle these pressures, from the U.K.‘s Institute for Philanthropy report “Giving in the Recession” to the Vermont Community Foundation’s recent “Things to keep in mind when donating to disaster recovery efforts”.  To these recommendations, I offer just one addition: stick to your values and your mission.

During a time of crisis, relying on clearly articulated values and a mission will help keep your philanthropic portfolio on the right course.  And, if you don’t have written values and a mission statement, there’s no time like the present to clear your desk or kitchen table and start experimenting with writing about what drives you.  It doesn’t matter whether you are managing the charitable assets of a Fortune 500 company or the annual giving for your nuclear family, these declarations will act as a beacon in a nor’easter.  They are the first step towards developing a strategic plan for your giving, acting as a filter that help you say “no” when you need to.  Most importantly, they are the connection between the checks you write and the reason you engage in the act of giving away money to begin with . . . articulating your values and mission helps you to put the joy back in giving.

So, if you never were involved with affordable housing before, think carefully about whether Irene is the perfect opportunity to broaden your philanthropic horizons, or a diversion from your traditional focus on the arts.  Perhaps your disaster-related funding niche is supporting arts organizations impacted by flooding.  If affordable housing has been a priority for you, perhaps now is the time to help those groups supporting flood victims in the face of budget cuts, such as home sharing organizations, in increasing community support by making a challenge grant.  And, if African wildlife hasn’t been part of your mission statement before now, resist the urge to respond – even if they too have been negatively impacted by the recession.  Stick to your values and mission to make your giving meaningful – or at year’s end you’ll have a philanthropic portfolio full of white elephants.