choices are generally considered private decisions. If
discussed at all, differences among individuals' giving
strategies are often shrugged off as a matter of style
and personality. "You give spontaneously; I give
strategically; viva la difference!"
We believe that lack of discussion
about why and how people do their giving deprives us all.
Greater effectiveness could come from openly exploring
and challenging our different choices. Certainly, ways
abound to be a caring and effective giver, and people's
giving naturally follows their particular interests and
strengths. Yet we all also have blinders--from the limits
of our life experience, and from the norms that surround
To illustrate, here are three
issues about giving that we care about:
Understandably, many people are drawn to give
locally, to projects where they feel a personal connection.
But if most people give that way, many areas of great
need and potential impact will go underfunded--for instance,
communities of color, or projects of national and international
scope. An argument could be made that committed local
givers should still set aside a certain percentage of
their giving for further afield.
At present, almost no one has as a funding priority
"organizing people with wealth" or "building
philanthropic infrastructure." But philanthropy
doesn't just happen--it needs to be developed and supported.
If most givers set aside even 1-2% of their funding
for this area--much as businesses routinely dedicate
a percentage of profits towards research and development--there
might be significantly more money available for everyone's
most pressing issues. (This would be especially true
ff additional philanthropy did not try to replace, but
helped to restore and increase the government's vital
Often, giving from the heart is posed as the
opposite of giving strategically, and giving spontaneously
considered incompatible with following an overall giving
plan. It seems to us that these apparent opposites need
to be reconciled for giving to be both joyful AND effective.
If more people talked about these differences, perhaps
creative giving strategies would emerge that integrate
these different modes.
can issues like these be discussed if giving is simply
a matter of private personal preference?
In the following three pieces,
the authors openly advocate controversial positions about
giving. While we may not see eye-to-eye with the writers,
we applaud them for opening these discussions and taking
provocative stands. May their boldness stimulate all of
us to talk more openly with colleagues, friends, family
about what makes for satisfying and effective giving-and
increase our willingness to enjoy and learn from the differences
- Christopher Mogil and Anne
1. Supporting Community Reconciliation.
As a consultant to the Rockefeller foundation for the last several years,
I said to them, "You are a liberal foundation giving
to liberal causes. Most of the time I agree with your
inclinations. However, for every dollar you give to a
liberal cause, a conservative foundation is funding a
conservative counterpart. At best these dollars cancel
each other out. Unfortunately, more often they are like
fueling community-based cold wars. I think there is a
better way. You say your work is about building community,
but you are often just arming adversaries. How could you
do this differently?"
As a result of this kind of
discussion, the Rockefeller Foundation is now giving several
million a year to a process we call "the Common Enterprise."
It works by lip finding communities in conflict and funds
a process in which the stakeholders in the conflict are
brought together. The funders say to the community, 'We'll
fund you if and when you get together with the groups
in your community who have opposite viewpoints and shape
a common proposal." The foundation spends relatively
small amounts of money for facilitators to aid the process.
There are now four cities with Common Enterprise teams,
where people of all political persuasions are working
Even if you agree with one
side of a war of ideas, it makes sense to use precious
philanthropic dollars to build bridges between parties
rather than to fund one side of a cultural war. You are
more likely to come up with a durable lasting impact,
and to promote community revitalization and self-governance.
- anonymous author
2. First Come, First Served.
I offer a story about how
much we can do in philanthropy when we dare to break the
old rules. Back in 1971, with the proceeds of her landmark
Sisterhood is Powerful,
Robin Morgan set up
a fiscal situation that allowed her to give everything
the book earned to the feminist movement. Robin's criteria
were unusual and simple. She decided to give all the royalties
on a first come, first served basis, to autonomous women's
groups helping women.
After unsuccessfully trying
to involve the anthology writers in choosing recipients,
she decided to send an open letter out to all the women's
centers, groups, and media. Requests poured in. Once she
and other members of her funding group asked around in
the community how credible the groups were, small seed
grants of $300-$1000 were given to each project. In total
The Sisterhood Is Powerful Fund (which was the very first
feminist foundation) gave about $30,000-money which helped
launch many of the first rape crisis centers, incest survival
centers, and battered women's shelters. That total, adjusted
for inflation, would now be about $300,000.
I am telling you this story
not only to honor a trailblazer but to comment on the
daring trust that it takes to give away money with such
broad criteria on a first come first served basis. There
were no site visits, no big evaluation, just the idea
that the women who applied should receive the money. In
fact, Robin considered the money was already "theirs"
because the anthology was a book about and for the feminist
movement. In addition, Robin was not wealthy herself,
so she gave away money that she could easily have used
to buy a house or farm for herself.
The women's movement is incomparably
larger and more complex than it was back then. Funding
has not grown comparably. I'm not suggesting we all do
exactly what Robin did, but I think her approach was as
innovative as it was simple. We sometimes value stinginess
over generosity--calling it 'prudence.' We value suspicion
over trust-calling it 'responsibility.' We dutifully follow
in the footsteps of ancestors who never challenged the
I really like the idea of
finding simple and non-bureaucratic ways of funding. It
is up to us, those who benefit from the unjust system
that creates such huge needs worldwide, to change the
models of funding. What do you think?
- anonymous author
3. A Challenge to Traditional
Assumptions Underlying Giving: A Proposal for Reparations.
As an educator and civil
rights lawyer, I have spent my adult life living and working
with people of color trapped in urban ghettos. Over the
past twenty-six years I have worked with thousands of
folks, mostly poor, young, Black and Puerto Rican people
chewed up by the system. I have come to believe that only
radical economic, political and social change will eradicate
the deeply oppressive conditions of our society.
As I read
More than Money,
I see that many people who are sensitively trying to deal
with their wealth still think in terms of giving and contributing.
But these concepts do not end the power relationships
between those who are wealthy and those who are struggling
in poverty. In addition to contemplating how to "be
generous" with an inheritance, why not also look
at how you and your ancestors allowed this wealth to be
consolidated, maintained and inherited in the first place?
If you trace the roots of
any person of African descent in America, you will find
lives of stability and plenty back in Africa. Millions
of people were kidnapped from their lands and businesses
and forced into slavery. Their descendants were released
from slavery into a racist, hostile society in which every
opportunity to succeed was denied. Is it any wonder that
millions of African Americans today are caught up in poverty
I believe that this poverty
should be and can be lifted through reparations, not charity.
Through reparations, the U.S. government would return
resources to those from whom they were taken. While many
different reparations proposals are being discussed, most
suggest financing an infrastructure for education and
economic development rather than distributing individual
payments. The estimated cost ranges from $700 billion
to $4 trillion, to be paid over a period of twenty to
This figure may sound far-fetched,
yet reparations have happened before: the U.S. Congress
provided them to Japanese Americans for their wrongful
detention in the 1940's; Germany gave money after WWII
toward the development of Israel; the tiny country of
Poland just approved $7.5 billion to compensate people
whose property was confiscated by Communist authorities
Now there is a growing reparations
movement in America, as sensitive people from all walks
of life recognize reparations as a legitimate concept
waiting for action. Congressman John Conyers of Michigan
has repeatedly submitted a bill (H.R. 40) to establish
a commission to study the issue; it is only a matter of
time before it passes and reparations gets its due on
the Congressional floor. How long will we pour a fortune
into building prisons, arming our communities, dealing
with "troubled youth?" Why not instead commit
the resources necessary to develop economically functioning,
Rather than "giving,"
Americans swimming in money should consider "returning"
the proceeds to those from whom it was taken. By putting
resources behind the budding reparations movement, they
can help acknowledge society's grievous wrongdoing and
create a dignified way for African Americans to claim
their rightful economic place.
- anonymous author
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