I practice philanthropy cannot be separated from who I
am as a person. I am a Jungian analyst, which always informs
what I do as a funder.
In the mid-1990s my marriage
of thirty-some years ended. I had been married to a man
who had been the CEO of a computer company. Since I ended
up with more money than I needed, I began to think about
how I could use it creatively.
I went first to The Minneapolis
Foundation and set up a donor-advised fund. Next, I endowed
a fund at the Headwaters Fund, to support projects in
native communities in the headwaters of the Mississippi
I also bought a piece of wetlands in my neighborhood that
was going to be developed; I gave it to the city so it
could be preserved.
After that, I started truly
inventing myself as a funder. I was relieved to go to
a National Network of Grantmakers meeting recently and
discover there's a word for me: activist funder. Actually,
I'd say I'm a Jungian analyst activist funder -everything
I've learned as an analyst always informs what I do as
I knew when I started that
I would make mistakes. I have made some big ones that
I am sorry about, in the sense that I wish I had that
money to put other places. But I did what I thought was
the right thing to do at the time. There is no other way
to learn. A lot of funding gets shut down because people
are afraid of making mistakes. Since I am using my own
resources, I can make mistakes.
I have learned that funding
is an expression of who you are. To say that I know who
I am would be arrogant; it's more that I feel open to
learning who I am, knowing that what I do as a funder
is integrated with the rest of my life, my passions, priorities,
and values. However, it's not my identity; it's just something
I do. One of my friends is Lakota and he does art. He
says that only for Western minds would "artist"
be understood as an identity that defines you, rather
than one of the things you do because you are a human
being. Similarly, everyone can be a "funder,"
even if you give only 20 bucks.
When I started, I knew
I had the tools I needed, gained from my experiences as
a lawyer and an analyst-I just needed experience. The
only way to get that was to follow my heart, and keep
my head attached. At first, I funded things that I felt
passionate about and where I recognized passion in those
doing the project. Since then, I've learned that I want
to stay with the passionate, but at the same time ask,
"Who is carrying out the project? What's my assessment
of how able they are to make this happen? Can they get
funds down the road? Is it a good idea? Is it doable?
Is it realistic?" This approach has kept me from
walking into some things that would have been a mistake.
I'm a little more hard-nosed now. It's probably keeping
me out of trouble, but I'm not sure.
I have also moved away
from supporting intellectual projects to funding activist
projects. Working with Headwaters has focused me more
on what they describe as social change, rather than social
service. I'm getting a clearer sense of where I want to
put money (not where others should). I like to think I'm
on my own creative edge and funding others who are on
I learned a lot about listening
as a lawyer-listening to facts and information. I also
have a pretty good ear for vision. That's the piece I
want to discern in the projects I consider funding: Is
this vision alive? Is the project really following it?
It has to do with whether or not you believe there is
something transcendent in the individual that is pushing
them to evolve. We Jungians call it the Self. I wonder:
"Where is the Self in this organization? In this
One thing I have learned
from my Lakota friends and teachers is that we are all
part of the circle of life. As they say, mitakuye oyasin-all
my relations. If you understand that you are part of the
circle of life, you are responsible for its preservation
and maintenance. What I hope I am doing as a funder, and
as a human being, is being a responsible part of the circle
of life. The resources I have access to are not "my"
resources, but I am responsible for allowing them to move
through me into the community in a thoughtful way. There,
the passion and creativity of others puts them into the
service of life. What happens may not be successful in
the way the project defined success-as achieving x, y,
and z. For me, it doesn't have to do that exactly. I want
to have the sense that this project is really alive. When
I feel that about a project, I feel blessed that I've
been in a position to have those resources move through
me and into it. It's an extraordinary opportunity, for
which I am profoundly grateful
- anonymous author
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