Traditionally most donors have given to causes to which they have a personal connection. They give to the hospital where they had a successful surgery. They give to an at-risk youth shelter because they grew up in a broken home. They give to the college they went to because they feel like it did a great job preparing them for life.
Part of what characterizes the donors I call Tactical Philanthropists, is their embrace of the idea that they want their gifts to be effective. This desire for effectiveness may lead them to organizations that they do not have a prior connection with. But the effectiveness of these donations, the “social return on investment” that they get from these gifts, is the goal that they are pursuing.
From today’s Wall Street Journal article, “Rich donors stiff elite alma maters, give to needier colleges”:
Laurence Lee is the sort of alumnus that the University of Chicago craves, with two degrees from the school and plenty of money that he is looking to give away. But when Chicago solicits Mr. Lee for donations, he says he thinks to himself, "What do they need me for? What difference can I make when they already have billions?"
Instead of contributing much to Chicago, where he earned bachelor’s and law degrees, Mr. Lee, who is retired, gave $6.6 million to a school he never attended: Lake Forest College, a small liberal-arts school located in the Chicago suburb where he lives. Its endowment is about $75 million, just over 1% of University of Chicago’s $6.1 billion.
"My money means a lot more to Lake Forest," he says.
Mr. Lee is among a rising cohort of philanthropists who are eschewing their richly endowed alma maters in favor of schools with meager resources. Turned off by massive endowments at the nation’s top schools, they seek to make a greater impact at less-wealthy institutions.