The field of philanthropy is a bit like an uncharted wilderness. Unlike most 100+ year old fields, there is no real set of “best practices” in philanthropy. There is no agreed upon way to evaluate a charity. Most donors have never even heard of some of the basic tools of giving like charitable trusts and donor advised funds.
Recently I’ve been discussing with a pretty esteemed group of philanthropic leaders what “strategic philanthropy” even means and how we can tell if someone is practicing it.
As a field we still have an aversion to admitting that philanthropy ever fails at anything. But as everyone knows, admitting a problem is the first step to fixing it.
Personally, I’m still in the thick of learning about philanthropy. I have a large stack of books about philanthropy next to my desk that I have yet to read and another large stack of those I have. But with One-Click ordering from Amazon, it seems that my “To Read” pile grows faster than I can keep up.
So let’s be ambitious and work hard to build a new and better philanthropy. But let’s also be humble and realize that we all have so much to learn. Philanthropy as a field of practice is still in its infancy. So rather than resolve that next year we will do more, do better, do faster. Let us humbly resolve that in 2009 we will make better mistakes than we did in 2008. Let’s make mistakes that are the result of daring, well informed risks. Mistakes that demonstrate our willingness to embrace the unknown and try things that other people tell us can’t be done. Let’s make mistakes that we can be proud of, the kind of mistakes that we brag about over a beer with friends, “Remember that time when we….?!”
And who knows. Maybe we’ll all create something wonderful.
Happy New Year’s and thanks for reading Tactical Philanthropy!