"Philanthropy: It's So Easy
March 14, 2007; Page A13
The "Wealth Report" myth that it is hard to give money away ("Paying Money to Donate Money," Weekend Journal, March 9) has been created by a philanthropic bureaucracy that gets paid to make giving (and getting) seem hard. That myth insults everyone who works for a nonprofit and all who benefit from their services.
It is also a myth that to have a big impact you have to attack a big, fancy problem. The opposite is true. The biggest bang-for-the-buck can be had locally, where budgets are modest and under enormous pressure.
It isn't the size of their fortunes that makes giving hard for some donors, but their obliviousness to the many needs staring them in the face.
To be clear, I think Howard has only a partial point. Strategic, big resource philanthropy is not easy, and help/research/data/analysis are good. As foundations grow larger than national economies it becomes increasingly important to be serious, careful and global in thinking. Which by now means obviates Howard's point about the importance of the small, the local, and that "which is staring [them] in the face."
And, as I have said since I got into this work - as philanthropy (and the advising businesses that serve it) grow, they need to maintain standards, humility, and a firm sense of what really matters, as well as a good deal of perspective on which problems are really hard. Yes, it is hard to figure out how to apply philanthropic resources to solve hunger, malaria, or poverty. But it is harder still to be hungry, sick, and poor.
Reprinted in full from the WSJ Letters to the editor, lest we all drink too much of our own KoolAid.