In addition to writing the Tactical Philanthropy blog, Sean writes a monthly column called Tactical Philanthropy for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. From 2007 to 2009, Sean wrote the column On Philanthropy for the Financial Times. From time to time, Sean also writes one-time columns for a variety of different media outlets.
Charities Should Be Held to ‘Philanthropic Equity’ Standards
August 20, 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy
It is time for nonprofit accounting standards to recognize the concept of “philanthropic equity.”
For too long, donors have looked at nonprofit financial statements and believed that as much money as possible should be spent on programs and as little as possible should be spent on the organization itself. This logic is fundamentally flawed… keep reading.
Data Don’t Tell the Whole Story of Charities’ Impact
July 2, 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy
A week’s worth of The New York Times includes more information than the average American living in the 18th century would have encountered in his or her lifetime, according to the book Information Anxiety 2 by Richard Wurman.
As grant makers demand more data on which to base their philanthropic decisions, let’s remember that… read article.
Successful Grantmaking: T-Shaped People, Consilience & Design Thinking
May 21, 2009, Grant Makers Network Newsletter
How can grantmakers be successful in the 21st century? They need to embrace design thinking and become T-Shaped People.
Philanthropy is a most cross-disciplinary practice. While program officers must have technical domain expertise in their core area of focus, to be truly successful they must also be… keep reading.
Charities Should Nurture Donors’ Passion for Giving
May 21, 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy
In a quest to make philanthropy more efficient and effective, many organizations and individuals have sprung up to improve the process of how donors give. Most of those efforts focus on giving advice to the biggest foundations, and only a handful of services focus on coaching individuals in the art and science of philanthropy. This imbalance in the way knowledge is shared is a key reason charitable giving is not meeting anywhere near its full potential to transform society.
When the prolific bank robber Willie Sutton was asked… keep reading.
Philanthropy’s Information Revolution
April 23, 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy
Two years ago, Carla Dearing, then chief executive of Community Foundations of America, wrote an opinion essay in Worth magazine titled, “The Schwabification of Philanthropy.”
She argued that philanthropy was going through a transformation as the Internet not only reduced the cost of making philanthropic gifts to both donors and nonprofit organizations but also… keep reading.
It’s Time to Share More Information About Worthy Charities
March 26, 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy
I have a daughter in public school and a son who will be there in a couple of years. As a parent and citizen, I care about the quality of the public schools both for the sake of my children’s education and for that of our nation’s children. Millions of other parents just like me also care about education and are making charitable donations to benefit it.
But only a tiny minority of those donors know how their contributions can best…keep reading.
The Second Wave of Giving Will Roll On
February 10, 2009, Financial Times
Between the dismal economy, crashing financial markets and the Madoff scandal it would be natural to assume that philanthropy was out for the count. But while these difficulties might take the wind out of the sector’s sails for a while, we are in the midst of a second great wave of philanthropy.
Even though baby boomers have seen their retirement accounts take a dive, they have spent the past 30 years accumulating wealth and are now…keep reading.
Sacrifice notion sabotages our nonprofits
December 30, 2008, Financial Times
As we finish 2008 amid the worst recession in decades, many Americans are sacrificing some degree of personal comfort to support a charitable cause. But while sacrifice may be a noble personal virtue, the concept of sacrifice is sabotaging the non-profit sector.
When Americans give to charity, they want their donation to go directly to “the cause”. The non-profit organization, it seems, is viewed as nothing more than a bureaucratic entity whose… keep reading.
A New Role for Community Foundations
November 25, 2008, Financial Times
Community foundations in the US are at risk of becoming irrelevant unless they can transform into trusted donor advisers.
Since the founding of The Cleveland Foundation in 1914, community foundations have raised charitable funds from a community and distributed the money back to that area’s non-profit organizations. But a new role is emerging… keep reading.
The Next Wave
November 1, 2008, Wealth Manager magazine
In 1975, the SEC deregulated brokerage commissions and set the stage for Charles Schwab & Co. to create the discount brokerage business model. By unbundling the sale of advice from execution, Schwab fundamentally changed the wealth management business. Today, the intertwined worlds of philanthropy and finance are undergoing a similar shift that is transforming the wealth management industry.
Using a model similar to the full service brokerage business, community foundations have long… keep reading.
Social circles with a square deal for charity
September 30, 2008, Financial Times
Giving circles are a hot trend in philanthropy. Similar to the investment clubs of the 1990s that brought people together to talk about stock picking, giving circles are social groups where people pool resources and decide which non-profits to fund. If giving circles prove to be a hit, a few years from now cocktail party chatter might include: “I just got a hot tip on a non-profit you should consider!”
One of these giving circles is the NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund. With about 30 members, the circle consists of residents who work… keep reading.
‘Blood money’ that became a force for good
August 12, 2008, Financial Times
Like everyone who lost a loved one on 9/11 Steve and Liz Alderman were devastated when their 25-year-old son, Peter, was killed in the World Trade Center attack. Like many, they chose to honor their son’s memory by creating a foundation in his name.
Of the 303 non-profit organizations launched in response to 9/11, only 27 were still operating five years later, according to a study by the NonProfit Times. What has kept the Peter C. Alderman Foundation going is his parents’ focus on… keep reading.
Invest in the Best to Make an Impact
June 28, 2008, Financial Times
Giving money to charity does not necessarily make the world a better place. Nevertheless, most donors believe that donating qualifies as “doing good”. In fact, the gift of money is only the first step in a chain of events that might achieve the elusive goal of creating social impact.
For-profit investors understand this issue. Making an investment does not guarantee a profit; this comes from what a business does with its capital. A result of the belief that the donation itself produces an impact is the idea that… keep reading.
Givers: Go Out and See For Yourselves
May 31, 2008, Financial Times
I recently left behind my office, with its constantly ringing phone and glowing computer screens, to visit some of the non-profits funded by Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, a public charity founded and led by Bill Somerville.
As we stood in line at a soup kitchen in our dress slacks and collared shirts, the other men and women turned curious eyes our way. “I’ve brought people here in the past who worry that… keep reading.
The Foundations of Tax-Efficient Giving
May 10, 2008, Financial Times
Many people think of charitable giving as an item in their annual budget, and measure it as a percentage of income. But if you own financial assets such as real estate or a portfolio of stocks and bonds, you should consider an endowment approach to your philanthropy.
Ultra-wealthy philanthropists have long created… keep reading.
Non-profits look to invest in themselves
March 29, 2008, Financial Times
When you donate to a non-profit organization, you expect your money to be used to help the people the non-profit serves. You want your money to help a pre-schooler, a homeless person or someone with a disease. But what about the non-profit itself? Are donors interested in investing in the growth of a non-profit, so that it can develop a sustainable business model and serve more people over time? Clara Miller and George Overholser think so.
Miller founded Nonprofit Finance Fund in 1980 to lend money to non-profits so they could invest in more energy-efficient light fixtures and equipment. The resulting lower energy bills reduced costs and allowed… keep reading.
The Donor Landscape of 2033 is Bright
March 1, 2008, Financial Times
Philanthropy is undergoing a transformational shift. While most donors continue to give in the same ways they have for 100 years, the vanguard of philanthropy is busily reforming the fabric of the charitable sector.
Often referred to as the “social capital markets” and characterized by a model of giving that mirrors the financial markets, this emerging model is still… keep reading.
Satisfaction Guaranteed by a Little Research
February 2, 2008, Financial Times
Are you a hot-tip donor? If you are reading this newspaper, you are probably sophisticated enough not to chase the stock of a company that your friend’s sister’s husband says has a hot new product.
But if you are like most people, you decide which non-profits to support using… keep reading.
Consilience in Philanthropy
January 26, 2008, OnPhilanthropy.com
Have you ever heard someone say, “We need to get out of our silos and work together”? The silo effect is one of those over used metaphors of the business world, but the issue it raises is real. In short, silo thinking refers to a situation (common in most organizations) where people do not communicate across departments.
In large private foundations, there has long been a… keep reading.
Time to take a hard-nosed look at giving
January 5, 2008, Financial Times
Every end is a new beginning. Having said goodbye to 2007, now is the time to look forward to 2008 and decide what kind of philanthropist you want to be. Are you satisfied being part of the majority of Americans who rush to fulfil their philanthropic obligations in a flurry of year-end giving? Or will this be the year that you get organised and maximise the impact of your philanthropic capital?
Recently, the Financial Times reported on the growing ranks of “hard-nosed philanthropists”. These donors are “part of a new… keep reading.
How to make your giving more effective
November 24, 2007, Financial Times
Thanksgiving is a time to “give thanks”, but giving thanks well is harder than you think. We are in the middle of Giving Season, that time of year when many Americans donate time or money to their favourite non-profit. Most people give reactively to a variety of causes that catch their attention for one reason or another. There is a better way to celebrate the Giving Season.
This year, when you are making your holiday gift list, consider one of these excellent books that will show you and your family how to “give thanks” well and find a deeper… keep reading.
Children need not be taxing
October 26, 2007, Financial Times
An old philanthropic planning technique is ready to explode in popularity. Parents have long used charitable lead trusts to make tax-free gifts to their children while using philanthropy as a way to prepare them for wealth. But as life expectancies rise and people become wealthier sooner, this obscure trust is enjoying a renaissance among young millionaires.
Affluent families used to either inherit wealth or earn it over a long career. Today, most wealthy individuals are self-made and an important subset, especially in the technology sector, is making millions before starting a family. Those who inherited wealth in the past often did so while building their own financial security. Now, some do not receive their inheritance until… keep reading.
True measure of giving won’t always add up
September 28, 2007, Financial Times
Our understanding of philanthropy is changing from “giving money away ” to “making social investments “. But this admirable shift is leading some donors mistakenly to focus on how charities spend donations, instead of understanding whether the organisations they support are making a difference.
When investors evaluate for-profit companies, they ultimately need to answer one question: how much money will the company make? The non-profit equivalent, the charity’s “profit “, is the impact charities have on their chosen cause. Better living conditions, improved education and a cleaner environment are examples of impact. While these outcomes can be difficult to evaluate, they are the only… keep reading.
Philanthropy not just for the ultra-rich
August 24, 2007, Financial Times
Bill Gates. Warren Buffett. The massive transfer of wealth between generations. Stories abound about billions of dollars being set aside for charity. Yet there is an even bigger story unfolding; the story of a growing number of everyday individuals who are waking up to the fact that they, too, can engage in philanthropy.
The fact is that philanthropy is no longer only for the ultra-rich. A good rule of thumb is that you should consider philanthropic tools such as transferring stock or using a donor advised fund if you give more than $500 a year. If you give more than $25,000 a year you can… keep reading.