Left Brain, Right Heart

This entry to the One Post Challenge comes from Randy Ottinger. Randy is the author of Beyond Success: Building a personal, financial and philanthropic legacy. He is the founder of LMR Advisors, which provides strategic philanthropy and legacy advisory services to individuals, wealth advisory firms, and social enterprises. A longer version of this post is available here.

By Randy Ottinger

Left Brain Right Heart: The Individual In The Philanthropic Marketplace

It has been three years since I embarked on my “in search of excellence” study of top philanthropists, generational families, investors and thought leaders. From this study I learned that there is a heart of philanthropy and a rational philanthropic marketplace, and that there are great challenges and opportunities to integrate the two.

The heart of philanthropy is the compassionate individual who wants to give because it is a noble, just and pure act. The heart of philanthropy is spiritual. It witnesses with eyes wide open the most dire problems of humanity, problems that are hard to view up close and personal, problems that seem impossible to resolve, problems that are just as easily left to someone else to tackle, problems where there is no monetary gain, problems that if one were to get involved might change the course of one’s life. The heart desires to give out of empathy and caring for other human beings. Right hearted individuals lead from a place of emotion, compassion and empathy. They give when they are asked to give without question or recognition. They feel the pain and suffering of others and cry, seeking to provide relief in whatever way they can. They act when they are moved, and they are moved by images of suffering and devastation. They care about relationships, and support the causes of their friends without questioning. Giving is part of who they are as humans. And when the right heart gives it is full.

The left brain on the other hand operates from a place of rationality where the language and motivations are quite distinct from the right heart. The left brain does not dwell on images of pain and suffering. It does not speak of injustice or of the moral obligation of individuals. Instead, the left brain focuses intently on problems and solutions. The left brain is about facts and objectivity. The language of the left brain speaks in terms of giving that is productive, effective, and strategic. When left brained individuals support a charity they seek to improve the operation of that charity. They are attracted to social strategies that are grounded in research and are measurable. The left brain is about solving social problems with a rational approach.

The logical outcome of left-brain philanthropy is a global philanthropic marketplace; a marketplace, like a global financial marketplace, where sources of capital intersect with organizations seeking capital. The capital sources in this case are the government, foundations and individuals providing philanthropic capital. The organizations seeking capital are charities. In a rational philanthropic marketplace the charities that would receive the most capital are the ones that are the most strategic, high impact and well run. In a rational philanthropic marketplace high impact charities would grow, and other charities that are less strategic would shrink or go out of business. Ultimately, the global philanthropic marketplace would guide individuals and philanthropic dollars to organizations and causes that yield the highest and best results for society.

Today there is a need for a new philanthropic marketplace that attracts social capital to high impact causes and charities, supports the social good, and guides the heart and mind of the compassionate individual for the greater good.