Friday, December 19, 2003

Pen and paper, PDA and text messaging

How does technology really change longstanding ways of working? I am by no means the first person to ask this question, but it came back to me when I received - on paper by the US postal service - a copy of a speech delivered - in person, from behind a lectern I'm sure - a speech on the digital humanities.

Now, the sender could have emailed me the paper, or directed me to the URL link for the homepage of the speech's author.

Instead, I received a document that I could stick in my briefcase and read in comfort (well, relative to staring at a computer screen) on the train home.

As I read it, I though how I should respond to the sender. In a handwritten letter, mailed to him in New York. After I had time to reflect on it. Instead of jotting a quick email.

But now I have to figure out what to do with the document. I can't file it easily, as I don't have it electronically. As I am no longer an official academic, I long ago lost my file boxes of random artifacts, ideas, and interesting sources (though I still have a large pile of newspaper clippings on the floor in my office).

The immediate power of the piece - making me think about how, in ways big and small - technology has changed how I work, how I think, how I find and store information, how I interact with colleagues, introduce myself to people, and distribute my own writing. Its worth thinking about for all us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

My favorite new quote on philanthropy

San Francisco Magazine's Jnauary 2004 issue features a story on The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. In attempting to make the shenanigans at this foundation interesting, the author points to the tight ties between the Board and Staff and big business ( unusual), makes claim of impressive (er...I mean excessive) spending on the foundation offices, and uncovers an illicit romance within the staff. Not very new stuff, but lots of fun when its all in one place. My favorite quote " If producers of TV reality shows really want to expose the face of human paranoia, they should take their cameras inside San Francisco's philanthropy community. Fear is definitely the factor that keeps people from admitting in public what they're saying in private. Enviros and consultants don't want to spoil their chances of tapping the Moore money well, abd other foundation executives don't want to jeapoardize working with Coleman and crew on a joint grant."

I've joked for years that "Philanthropy Consultant" should be the next new drama series on network TV - haven't we all had enough of emergency rooms and court rooms? and now we finally admit the real twist to making such a profession interesting enough for average TV viewers - fear, paranoia and jealousy. Better yet, sounds like a soap opera.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Bernholz on products in the philanthropic marketplace

Lucy Bernholz is quoted in a recent San Jose Mercury News story on donor advised funds.
Mercury News | 12/05/2003 | S.J. foundation forms fund with Citigroup
The early reviews are in.

Find out what the experts are saying about Bernholz's latest book: Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets: The Deliberate Evolution and then buy your copy today.

“Lucy Bernholz is one of the leading thinkers on the present and future course of philanthropy. Her writings are always a step ahead of the rest and this book is no exception. Her thoughts and analysis on the philanthropic sector, where it is headed and what is required from leaders like us, are both timely and visionary. She urges us to reimagine ourselves as an industry and identifies the practical steps we can take as donors and foundations to build philanthropic capital markets that will help us achieve our social missions.”

Alexa Cortes Culwell, CEO
Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation

“Now that all the philanthropic hype of the late 90’s has died down, what are the true, key trends for the future? What really matters? Bernholz articulately identifies the vital issues we all must focus on if we are going to capitalize on those trends and optimize philanthropy’s future.”

Paul Shoemaker, Director
Social Venture Partners Seattle

"Business success relies on networks – why would philanthropy be any different? Lucy Bernholz has charted how families and individuals are building "giving portfolios" by using multiple products and services within the philanthropic sector. She also challenges the philanthropic service sector to evolve to best serve these donors and communities. For people just getting started in giving - and for those already involved - this analysis provides practical insights into how to get the greatest results from their philanthropy."
Jeff Shields, Vice President
U.S. Trust Company

“Lucy Bernholz combines the rigor of a trained scholar with the street smarts of an experienced practitioner. This combination makes her an indispensable guide to the philanthropic marketplace. Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets provides her most provocative theories and visions, and therefore is a must read for anyone who wants to understand, influence or participate effectively in what she calls the new era of commercial charity. “

Katherine Fulton, Partner
Global Business Network and the Monitor Group

"Lucy Bernholz' critical analysis and clear language has captured the key issues in today's philanthropy and made it accessible to the non-technical reader. At the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, we were able to take a Bernholz article and distribute it to our leadership to help us focus our discussion around new strategic directions."
Marvin I. Schotland, President and CEO
Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Los Angeles

"Lucy Bernholz's newest book is a lively and engaging exploration of the dynamic new philanthropy industry in America. It functions as a kind of ‘charitable GPS’ guiding the reader across the fascinating, varied, and shifting terrain of 21st Century charitable giving. But more importantly, it offers a well-conceived blueprint of new ways that private charitable resources can-and should-be better leveraged for greater effectiveness and impact in the public benefit sector."

Peter Hero, President
Community Foundation Silicon Valley

Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets presents practical strategies for re-imagining philanthropy. It suggests that the resources of individual philanthropic players -- people and institutions -- can have a far greater impact, provide more satisfaction, and contribute to a better world if the system of philanthropy as a whole is redesigned. Through a coherent framework for pursuing improvement, the book suggests new ways for individuals and organizations to invest grant funds, approach regulatory structures that guide giving, and define their goals, activities, outcomes, and achievements.

Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets: The Deliberate Evolution Lucy Bernholz
New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004
ISBN: 0-471-44852-4
Hardcover 288 pages
January 2004
US $45.00
Order yours now at

Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Lucy Bernholz'z latest book is now available

Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets: The Deliberate Evolution

Buy yours online today

Friday, September 12, 2003

Philanthropic sprawl?

Is growth always good? Not if you ask urban planners dedicated to livable cities, open space preservationsists, or economists who question the logic of systems that rely on growth but that are baed on finite resources.

As we think about the philanthropic infrastructure metaphor, we should stop and question some of our most basic assumptions. Is more always better? Do established entities reap a return from subsidzing services to new entrants? When? How?

As information technologies change, cities are reconsidering the investments they make in utilities, roads, public transportation, schools and sewer systems. Do you need to run phone wires outside city lines when every one can use cellular technology instead? Should cities build broadband loops for their business districts or residents?

These urban infrastructures are provided as public goods, paid for in part by all taxpayers and in part by the developers/homeowners whose new demands on the system make them necessary. But who really benefits and when? And who gets to make decisions about what services should still be provided?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Thursday, August 28, 2003

It is very difficult to create a true "learning network". It takes time, real work or data and a safe room, maybe even a facilitated conversation initially. It seems to take all of that at least to support superintendants of public school systems in making real change through insructional leadership. Their work is both complex and public. Real instructional leadership requires the super to become a learner again, and is made even more risky by the leader's exposure to a skeptical and demanding public that is losing confidence in school systems. In the culture of blame that drives public systems today, there may be an assumption that the super already should know it all. Nonetheless, as we find out more about the brain and learning, strategies that were perceived to be fundamental may be found to be less effective than new research-based, data-driven interventions. We expect physicians to renew their skills continuously. Renewal, not just collecting credits, must become the guiding ethos of education. It needs to be OK for superintendants to say we don't know and we are going to find out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Managing the Giving Portfolio

A new report from Boston College's Social Welfare Research Institute (Schervish and Havens of the now-infamous $41 trillion wealth transfer estimate) shows that people who use planned giving options are inclined to use more than one at a time. (2003 Survey of Planned Giving, Schervish and Havens, BC, June 2003).

This aligns directly with our findings that more and more donors are using multiple giving options to manage their charitable giving. We've come to represent this in a graphic we call "The Giving Portfolio."
The Giving Portfolio.ppt

In other words, people are using lots of tools to manage their philanthropy both during their lifetimes and as they plan their estates.

What are the implications of The Giving Portfolio and these multiple giving/planning options? There are many for every constituency, from donors to advisers to community groups to the vendors of the different products. Here are just some examples:
* Funds are more fragmented, possibly making it even harder for donors to track they're giving and for community organizations to find the resources
* Donors are beginning to compare and contrast one option to another and demanding increased accountability from the
various vehicles.
* Different vehicles have different costs and will need to be able to show returns that justify those costs.
* Opportunities to advise the full portfolio (whether or not managing the actual assets) will take on a higher precedence
* Advisors or managers of one element of the portfolio should know about the other elements - and probably don't.

Most important at this stage of the game is the degree to which the various vendors in the portfolio are unaware of or in direct competition with their peer vendors. Once you recognize that the customer (the donor) is buying from all the vendors, you can see that the value of each option needs to be complementary and niche-filling, not all encompassing. This has implications for marketing strategies, results, accountability, and pricing. Its how the current marketplace is working, and the opportunities abound for those who can sell their services or products to strengthen this system rather than working against it.


Friday, July 11, 2003

Who speaks for whom?

Imagine this: You are the leader of a multi-billion dollar industry that has experienced several years of unprecedented growth. Over the course of the last two years, however, the media has taken every opportunity to expose scandal in your ranks, the pace of growth has slowed significantly, regulators and legislators are panting at the chance to enact real change in how the industry works, and new competitors are popping up on all sides. While the newcomers are much smaller than the current industry leaders, many of them are financed by huge established institutions with lots of R & D capacity and deep pockets.

Sound like high tech or the music industry? Try again. This is philanthropy in 2003. The the only thing about this picture that should surprise anyone who has been paying attention over the last few years is how meek the industry's reactions to these changes have been. And, anything that has been done, has been done as a reaction. No leadership, no proactivity, no coalitions to present alternative solutions or lead an industry effort at self-regulation, media support, or proposed regulatory changes to boost investment in the industry.

The opening sentence of this section may hold the most important challenge - Imagine you are a leader of the industry...well, who would you be if you fit that bill? Who are the leaders of the industry? Who should be the leaders in philanthropy? And why - after all these years - are these questions so hard to answer?

Monday, January 20, 2003

Calculating Change

What do foundations spend on knowing how well they do? Not an easy questions to answer. Here's a crude guess:

"....A significant amount of money, time and expertise is invested by a small portion of the foundation community on commissioning exactly this kind of information. The results include white papers on issues, trend and sector analyses, evaluation studies, and scans of other funders and their interests or strategies. This is precisely the kind of information that other donors need to make more rational and informed decisions about their grant investments, yet access to this information is completely hit or miss.

How much of this information is out there? We can’t say for certain, as industry-wide data are not collected on the actual investments in such research (an example of the lack of useful industry analysis). However, we can conservatively extrapolate from the numbers of staffed foundations (those with inclination and resources to make such investments), the total industry expenditures on administrative expenses (which would include staff, consultants, and those expenditures on research or evaluation that are managed as contracts and not grants). We can also factor in the number of foundations reporting grants for program evaluation.

These variables are all proxies for the actual key figure: the number of foundations investing in sector research and the level of spending on such information. The proxies, their details, and the source information for each are listed in Table 1.
Table 1: Proxies for investment in sector and industry research and analysis.
Proxy indicator Detail Source
A # Staffed foundations 3,123 Foundation Center, 2001
B Qualifying distributions$30,497,560,000 FC, 2000
C Total Giving $27,563,166,000 FC, 2000
D (B - C) $2,934,394,000 FC, 2000
E # Foundations making grants for program evaluation 213 Foundation Center Online, 2002
F Independent Sector Foundation members 325

There are approximately 3,100-staffed foundations in the United States. The number of foundations that report making grants for program evaluation is 213, a portion of the foundations reported as members of Independent Sector. Of these, perhaps 200 invest a significant portion of time and money in evaluating their programs, researching their interest areas, and commissioning trend analyses, sector scans, and new tool development for gauging their own impact and guiding their future grant decisions. The total funds spent by foundation on administrative expenses that would include consultants, evaluation and research staff, and commissioned research (as well as significant other categories of expenses including Program Related Investments, loans and program expenses) were approximately $2.9 billion in 2000. If we estimate that no more than 5% of this number would be spent on research, evaluation and consultants, we arrive at an annual expenditure proxy of $146,700,000.

Even with the limitations on the above calculations, the final numbers: 200 foundations and $146 million in expenditures are impressive findings. Especially when we consider that the bulk of this work is happening at the smallest point in a pyramid of philanthropic investors that includes these 200 or so foundations, all staffed foundations, all other foundations, all institutional donors (including donor advised funds, estates, giving circles) and individual philanthropists..."

The above text is excerpted from a draft of the article "assembly Required," by Lucy Bernholz, for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The section above was edited out of the article that will appear in the Review.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Indexing philanthropy
Thoughts in progress - web sites to keep in mind