Philanthropy Daily Digest

One Comment

  1. Eric Kessler says:

    The discussion here on The Art of Giving has raised the tension inherent in the book’s subtitle: “where the soul meets the business plan.”

    It’s a tension inherent in the philanthropy field, which too often simply pits “soul” against “business plan” — as if caring, passionate individuals are somehow incapable of making rational assessments, and as if metric-driven funders somehow lose their moxie if they enjoy the fact that they do good.

    I work with clients every day who defy that false dichotomy. And with that in mind, I think it’s worth drawing out a couple of key distinctions suggested by these posts and responses.

    1. What feels good isn’t the same as what’s good for the soul.

    This basic truth holds in philanthropy as elsewhere. In philanthropy, the difference often manifests as the difference between an emotional whim to fund, on the one hand, and passion-driven involvement on the other. There’s nothing wrong with indulging emotional whims, especially philanthropic ones. But genuine personal fulfillment – what’s really good for the soul – more often derives from passion-driven involvement. It comes because donors have a deep connection to what they are funding: a personal experience in seeing a loved one suffer an illness, exposure to global poverty, a skill set they posses being needed by a given nonprofit, etc.

    Such personal passion is powerful. It fires aspirations and sustained efforts that drive long-tem impact. But it shouldn’t cloud intellectual judgment. It should augment it. Which brings me to the next point:

    2. What’s good for the soul can be good for business.

    Donors who find personal fulfillment through their philanthropy are not therefore blind to its effects. On the contrary, they often get smart about the issues that excite them, learn from nonprofit partners, volunteer more, become spokespeople in their community, and so on.

    So, in many cases, the question isn’t whether philanthropy should be linked to personal fulfillment. It’s whether personal fulfillment alone is enough. I’d suggest that personal fulfillment should not be the sole motivator for philanthropy, but I‘d also offer that in the “art and science” of effective giving, all science and no art may not make for a very healthy donor-nonprofit relationship.

    Personal passion provides an excellent starting point for philanthropy. Where possible, it should be identified and encouraged. It should then be helped along a learning curve that leads, ideally, to a fully engaged donor who seeks to achieve maximum impact. If that donor then finds personal fulfillment in achieving maximum impact, a virtuous cycle can set in. Far from being opposed, the soul and the business plan can help each other out, as I suspect the authors of The Art of Giving would attest.