Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Inflection Point

What would you say if you had the chance to speak directly to a hundred or so potential philanthropists? What matters about philanthropy today?

Some thoughts:

Its a $240 billion a year industry in the United States, yet each individual piece tends to act in isolation from the others

People starting to think about philanthropy now have the chance to ask some hard questions about how they use their financial, human and intellectual resources:
-- Which financial product(s) make the most sense for me in terms of organizing my philanthropy and achieving my social goals? Do I start a foundation? Work with others in a giving circle? Join an online community of donors focused on my issues? Buy a gift fund from my private bank or work with my community foundation?
-- How do I know which of these financial products will help me achieve my goals? How to I assess them? How do I manage a portfolio of these options to the best ends?

And what about the people? How does human capital best work to achieve philanthropic ends?
How do I to be involved in the work? With whom do we need to work? How do we capitalize on the changing demographics of our communities to ensure the work is done in just, equitable, and effective ways, whether I'm interested in environmental preservation or human services?

Finally, where is the "philanthropic industry's brain trust?" How do I find out what else is being done and who else I can work with? How do I learn about trends and pressures on philanthropy? What have others who've worked in this field learned about saving whales, bringing technology to low income communities, feeding the hungry, or conducting medical research in ways that get drugs to poor people?

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