Since 2010, I have now written 100 columns addressing many aspects of philanthropy – for families, businesses and foundations. To acknowledge this milestone, here are some of my favorite excerpts – quotes that best encapsulate the many lessons I’ve learned and the thoughts I’ve tried to convey.
On family giving
“Many families fail to talk about their values around money and philanthropy while they still can. Advisers frequently meet families who wait until a grandparent, parent or child dies to start the conversation about giving. By then, a meaningful participant is lost. The time to begin a family discussion about philanthropy is today — when values can be developed and shared, priorities and goals established, and the philanthropic journey begun and enjoyed together.
“Consistently and meaningfully involving children in a family’s philanthropy can strengthen family connectedness and communication, teach kids to appreciate what they have, transmit values to future generations and leave a lasting family legacy — all while addressing important societal needs.”
“Multigenerational family philanthropy creates a unique opportunity for every family to set a new table so that all adult and young adult family members are invited to sit, share, develop and act upon common values and goals around money and philanthropy. … By treating philanthropic money separately and differently, families can create a ‘safe zone’ in which to discuss these important topics.”
“The amount of wealth soon to be transferred between generations is staggering. So are the problems facing the world. All indications are that young philanthropists are harnessing their passion, talents and values to take philanthropy to the next level of impact — and they’re doing it now.”
On impact investing
“Billions of dollars in tax revenues are forfeited by the public so that foundations and donor-advised funds can use that money to benefit society. With 95 percent of those assets often invested with no regard toward public benefit or mission, it’s time for donors to seriously consider the impact of their investments and create the public benefit they exist for from the engine of their assets, rather than just the fumes.”
“Philanthropic capital, already committed to making a difference in the world, should be holistically examined to make sure that it is not defeating the donor’s mission and is actually advancing the causes that inspired the donor to give in the first place. Ask the manager of your philanthropic capital, ‘Where is my money spending the night?’ Ask yourself deeper questions about the social impact of those investments. You may be surprised at the answers.”
On business giving
“Reputable studies document the positive impact of coherent philanthropy on corporate profitability. Especially among up-and-coming millennials, such efforts enhance employee recruitment, retention, productivity and engagement.”
“Externally, coherent corporate philanthropy improves customer attraction and loyalty, reputation (with regulators and others), brand awareness, risk management and overall community image – increasing sales and supporting a company’s social license to operate.”
“In today’s highly competitive environment, corporate philanthropy must be much more than random acts of kindness. Rather, it must be treated as a critical element of business success — helping companies achieve the highly valued triple-bottom-line that benefits people, improves the planet and enhances profit.”
On the meaning of philanthropy
“The term ‘philanthropy’ is a combination of two ancient Greek words: ‘philos’ meaning ‘love’ in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing and enhancing; and ‘anthropos’ meaning ‘human being’ in the sense of our common humanity. A philanthropist is a person who expresses love of humanity through charitable efforts.”
“Philanthropy is inherently optimistic, reflecting the deeply held belief that we can have a positive impact on the lives of others as well as on stubborn societal issues. Through philanthropy, individuals can make a difference, promote change and improve their communities.”
“In disheartening and divisive times, philanthropy offers hope for the future as well as an opportunity for people who have political and philosophical differences to work together to successfully address pressing problems.”
“’It is one of the beautiful compensations of life,’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself.’ Although philanthropy usually goes hand-in-hand with altruism, new evidence indicates that the giving of one’s time or treasure makes the world a better place for both giver and recipient. ‘One thing I know,’ said Albert Schweitzer, ‘is that the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.’”
“When setting philanthropic goals, donors should look through two lenses. The external lens helps us answer the question, ‘What are we hoping to accomplish for our community, country or world?’ The internal lens helps us answer, ‘What am I hoping to achieve for my family, business or self by donating hard-earned money and precious time to charity?’ Both questions are important.”
“Many donors adopt the ‘peanut butter’ approach to giving — spreading their charity thinly across a wide variety of nonprofits. Donors and beneficiaries alike benefit when donors focus deeply on a smaller number of carefully selected key issues or causes. By going deep, not wide, donors can advance their philanthropy from transactional to transformational.”
Last, but perhaps first in importance, from my very first column: “Philanthropy is like love. The more you make it a cornerstone of your life, the more you find the joy, meaning and satisfaction in living.”
As I start working on my next 100 columns, I would like to thank my readers for their ongoing interest in and support for philanthropy. Your readership and input are invaluable.
This post originally appeared in the Denver Post on November 18, 2018. It is reposted here by the author with permission.