Tactical Philanthropy Goes On Sabbatical

Almost exactly five years ago I sat down at my computer and typed out eight simple words.

“Welcome to the Second Great Wave of Philanthropy.”

They were the first words I ever wrote on this blog. At the time I never would have guessed that those little words would launch me on a journey of philanthropic discovery that would take me on a crisscrossing tour (both online and off) of America’s vibrant philanthropic community. I have learned so much from the Tactical Philanthropy community and have become only more convinced that the field of philanthropy is rushing forward toward a Second Great Wave of philanthropic activity that is fundamentally different from the philanthropy of the last century.

But now it is time for me to take a break from writing and focus on other areas of my life. Starting today, I’m taking a sabbatical of indefinite length from writing this blog. I hope I’ll be back at some point, but I can’t say with any certainty when. At this time, I find that I want to pour myself into other aspects of my life; my family, my community, my other personal passions and the building of my investment management business which gave rise to all of this half a decade ago.

While I won’t be writing with any regularity, I’ll still be following along with what’s going on in our field. I believe that the next five years will see the visible impact of the Giving Pledge, the advent of Social Impact Bonds and the coming of age of the effective philanthropy movement. While I won’t be chronicling this shared journey we are on together, I’ll still be a member of the tribe.

Writing this blog has certainly changed the trajectory of my life. I’d like to think that as a group we’ve helped nudge the trajectory of philanthropy along the path leading towards effectiveness.

Every one of you reading this has helped make this blog what it has been. You gave me the gift of your attention, interest and engagement. I am forever indebted to the Tactical Philanthropy community for helping make me the person I am today and nudging me along the path of my own personal life journey.

Thank you.


  1. George Overholser says:

    All great things must come to pass, Sean. Many, many thanks to you for the clarity, energy and leadership you have brought to this very important undertaking. To quote Steve Jobs, your work has created a “dent in the universe” — and that is no small feat!

    All the best,


    • Thanks George. You are one of the many people I never would have met had I never started writing this blog. I’m glad now to call you a friend and I’ll continue to follow your work closely. Good luck and thanks for teaching me so much.

  2. Adin Miller says:

    Sean, I fondly remember first meeting you years ago at a Council on Foundations conference. You were sitting in the room with a laptop getting ready to take down notes for a post. You were probably the only one doing so too. As George poetically wrote, you have made a difference in our community. Your voice will be missed, but I know you will continue to positively affect our field and practice. God speed.


    • Thanks for sharing the memory Adin. I remember my first COF conference in 2007. I was part of the first group of bloggers issued press passes. I heard later from the COF PR person at the time that inviting bloggers had been hugely controversial. Now COF has their own blog and does a great job encouraging people to blog and tweet. Times sure change fast.

      Good luck to you Adin!

      • Adin Miller says:

        I was in the room at COF making the argument to let bloggers into the conference. Controversial understates the level of dissent around the table, but me and others carried the argument that day. We certainly have come a long way.

  3. Jim Canales says:

    Thanks for bringing such passion, intelligence and thoughtfulness to this work. You have been one of a pioneers of the philanthropy/social media world and have helped to support and encourage others, like me, to follow your lead, even in a very modest way. I will certainly miss reading your work, but commend you for showing all of us the importance of focusing on what’s important in your life, even if it means having to make some hard choices. Please stay in touch!


    • Thanks Jim. It’s moving to see the first three comments on this post come in from people who I respect so much and who have been core members of the Tactical Philanthropy community for so long. Jim, you’re doing incredibly important work demonstrating how foundations can be transparent in pursuit of impact instead of just as a reaction to increased demands for accountability. I wish you the best!

  4. I hope the sabbatical is as long as it needs to be but that you’ll be back here, insightful and prolific as always, before long. Best of luck and all success on the next leg of your journey!

  5. Don Stannard-Friel says:

    Sean, I just want you to know how proud your family is of your good and innovative work over these 5 years. You have become our teacher, a wise man in the clan, and we all look forward to you taking us on new adventures in the coming years. With love and admiration, Dad

  6. Rona Pryor says:

    Sean, let me echo what’s already been said so well. Yours has been my “must read” blog for years – I’ve learned a lot from your insight and clarity. Best of everything as you focus on this next phase, and please do let us know of the occasions when we can hear from you!

  7. I’m going to miss learning from and with you here, Sean. Thank you for every post, and for the discipline and dedication to the sector that informed them.

    Here’s to finding other spaces to continue our conversations,

  8. Matt Klein says:

    Sean – Your blog has been at the top of my daily must-reads for years. It’s affected how I’ve done my work and advanced an important collective conversation. Your ideas and insights and your ability to identify, articulate and analyze issues and trends so well (and quickly!) have been inspiring. I’m sorry that the blog won’t be part of my daily routine but I know your influence will continue to be felt. Thanks and look forward to crossing paths again soon. Best, Matt

  9. All the best to you, Sean. Your insight and wisdom and tough questions will be missed.

  10. I will look forward to your thoughts as they reflect different kinds of connections. I prefer to think that you won’t be able to resist speaking when the time is right!

  11. Paul Penley says:

    We will all be a little more disconnected while you focus elsewhere. Your voice and eye on the trends in philanthropy have been a priceless education for us all. Those of us blogging elsewhere will try to pick up the pace a bit for a while, but I’m not sure how many people could sustain the active conversation you facilitated for so many years. Well done!

  12. You took Tactical Philanthropy a thousand times farther than I expected, and you executed better than I could have imagined five years ago. You managed to build a genuine community with the strength of your writing and insights. Which is always the goal, but so infrequently the result of a blog.

    Congratulations, Sean. You deserve a break.

    • Thanks Michael. You’re probably the first person I ever discussed the blog idea with. I’m amazed, and honored, that you still follow along. Thanks being such an important part of something that became such an important part of me.

      • “You’re probably the first person I ever discussed the blog idea with.”

        I checked my notes and we first discussed it in March 2006, with manifesto amendments and enhancements right through the summer. I remember suggesting that you secure the domain name tacticalphilanthropy.com, and much to my surprise you did — overnight.

        I come more from the asset management side of things but I was so impressed by your mastery of the subtleties of philanthropy and its tactical necessities. Bravo!

  13. Sean –

    Congratulations for not simply writing and curating a blog – but for helping build and sustain a community. All those lofty words we sometimes use to describe philanthropy at its best — effective, catalytic, adaptive, moral, results-oriented — could be applied to the role you’ve played these last 5 years.

    Best wishes for a sabbatical that is as personally rewarding as this blog has been to so many of your readers.

    All the best,

  14. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!

    I remember 5 years ago when I first started at the Center, I happened upon your blog and I’ve been a follower ever since. Sean, your voice will be missed. But you have set a wonderful example for me and so many others. I’ve learned so much from you and the discussions on this blog. *sniff* Good luck in your new life chapter!


  15. Sean,
    Wishing you the all best in the next phase of this journey. Thank you for your inspiration, intelligence, and warm collegiality. What an honor to be a member of this tribe with you!
    yours in abundant living, mindful giving, & generous prosperity,

  16. Tony Macklin says:

    Adding my deepest thanks to you for your inspiring columns over the years, and sharp observations on trends and challenges in philanthropy and philanthropic advising. Wishing you continued success in your great client work at Ensemble Capital and hoping you won’t shy away from speaking at philanthropy meetings 🙂

    Tony Macklin

  17. Nabeel says:

    Hi Sean,

    You probably don’t know me,but your blog has been an invaluable resource and a reliable source of insightful commentary to me,ever since I got involved in this space. Good luck with everything – and I hope you remain part of the conversation!

  18. Sean,
    Thanks for your passion and energy. All of us at WINGS will miss reading your insightful blog. Good luck with everything.


  19. Steve Goldberg says:

    Sean, oficially begin your richly-deserved and long-overdue sabbatical by not responding to this comment. Well done, sir.


  20. Pete Manzo says:


    Thank you for doing all this writing the past 5 years, and as others have said so well, for building a community of people with a shared interest in philanthropy and how to improve it. It must take incredible energy to write so well and passionately virtually every day, on top of doing all your client work. Hope your sabbatical is restful and refreshing.

    • Thanks Pete. I wrote almost every day for about 4 years and 8 months. When I slowed down this summer, I excused myself at first by saying I could write better stuff if I wrote less. But in truth, I think that blogging only works if you absolutely pour yourself into it and eat, drink and sleep your subject. If you do that, you can learn a ton and build something special. But once that runs out, it is better to move on.

      I haven’t lost my passion for philanthropy at all. But I have other passions to attend to for at least a little while.

  21. Susan Stockton says:

    As always, you have given 150% of yourself. You have educated and enlightened all of us. Thank you and enjoy your sabbatical.
    I know you will continue to find new worlds to conquer and that will add to your passion for life. Love, Sue

  22. Mike Quinn says:

    Your blog and writings have been immensely helpful in shaping my own thoughts as I entered into the world of philanthropy. I look forward to seeing where you go from here!

  23. Robert Stockton says:

    Your ability to observe, disect, analyze and summarize complex issues has always amazed me. Find something you are passionate about and throw yourself into it. That’s what you’ve done and I know you will continue.

    Wishing you the greatest success.


  24. Thank you Sean, for everything you’ve done to generate ideas, to build community, and to inspire so many of us to blog about philanthropy. You’ve been an inspiration on many levels, and I look forward to hearing of your success in anything you put your mind to. The philanthropy blogosphere won’t be the same without you.

    Warm best wishes,

  25. Sean, I hope you’ll find some other space to keep sharing the ideas you’ve written about in your blog. We’re a long way from creating the type of understanding and support of social benefit work that is needed to achieve long-term results.

  26. Please add my voice to the chorus of well-wishers and gratitude-expressers in this thread. I’ve been honored to know you a little bit for the past three years, and to have been a reader for all of that time and more. I always appreciated that you gave the time of day to someone whose main interest was something crazy like the arts. I completely understand the need to take a break, but I hope we’ll be reading your wonderful writing again before long.

  27. Sean, I just saw your post, and Ken Berger’s lines. You brought a voice of reason and understanding to all of this. 5 years ago, you could not have imagined these economic conditions or the effect they have had on charitable giving.

    I have enjoyed your blog and the many good things I’ve seen written by you and your followers. I am hoping you get back to this soon. You’re a natural. Thank you for your efforts.
    Bobby Vassallo

  28. Allison Fine says:

    Bravo, Sean! Have a great, well-deserved break and have fun with your family. We’ll all be here when you get back in whatever way you choose.

  29. Dorian Adams says:

    Sean, you did a brilliant job all around and truly made a positive difference on the philanthropic landscape!
    Hope to see you soon into the new year! Would love to have you guys come visit us in Sonoma on our vineyard.
    All best – Dorian