What I’m Reading – March 2014

March 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

I was inspired by this wonderful post by Helen Brown: Coming Out. I have written here before about prospect research and its misperceptions. It’s frustrating for those of us in the profession to be so consistently misunderstood and intentionally misrepresented in the press. The latest example is this piece by CNN. Helen speaks for many of us when she says that it’s time for us to come out, come into the light and represent with pride what it is that we do. Prospect researchers are essential to fundraising, and it’s well beyond time for us to speak for ourselves. I join Helen in celebrating March as Prospect Research Pride Month.

Speaking of coming out, CASE Currents cover article in the February edition is about welcoming back LGBT alums to campus. I like the article’s approach. The author counsels that schools need to acknowledge the pain points and the historical wrongs that some have likely experienced while they were students, while showcasing what things are happening now to make LGBT members of the campus community, including alums, welcome and safe. I co-wrote an article in 2001 about lesbians in philanthropy for APRA Connections (available in print). I’m glad to see the wider fundraising profession take this topic seriously. It’s about time.

More on LGBT philanthropy, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that Disney is going to stop charitable gifts to the Boy Scouts of America because of its discriminatory policy towards gay adults in leadership positions in the organizations. I applaud Disney in this decision. There are numerous Boy Scouts in my neighborhood, and I always feel so bad when I pass these kids as they are trying to raise money for their troops. I always just say no, thank you and continue walking. But I want to question the parents about their decision to allow their children to participate in an organization promotes discrimination. What values are they teaching their children? It’s a shame.

But I digress…

This article that was in the New Yorker in February gets at the question: “Does philanthropy by the most affluent among us make up for the negative consequences of inequality?” I remember in college and graduate school, before I had an inkling that I would have a career in fundraising, discussing with my peers the question of whether or not philanthropy necessitates the division between rich and poor. I tend to think not, though I do agree with this article that philanthropy by the 1% is not going to solve the problem of poverty. Nevertheless, the super rich have a responsibility to give, as we all do. Philanthropy should be a priority for everyone.

More on the philanthropy of the 1%: Meet the 12 Most Generous Tech Leaders – and the 6 Least. While this piece offers in depth profiles on each person, it also offers an interesting perspective about capacity versus actual philanthropic giving. The article also examines the question that the super wealthy and super busy face: Give now or later? Like me, the article leans towards “now”, stating “It’s not that complicated to put big money to good use.” Indeed.

And even more about how the 1% give, here’s a fascinating piece by the New York Times about the pros and cons of how American philanthropy is impacting science research, in light of shrinking government grants. The article asserts that, “[t]he availability of so much well-financed ambition has created a new kind of dating game.” It also points out that “the United States risks losing its leadership in invention and discovery.” It’s really long, but well worth the read.

Another one by Helen Brown: What your capital campaign is missing. For gosh sakes, find out the capacity of your prospect pool before declaring your campaign goal! As I say this, I freely admit that I have worked with more than one organization that did not do this. But I do share Helen’s opinion on this.

The Chronicle of Higher Education gave an interesting behind-the-curtain look at university fundraising by profiling Villanova’s kickoff events for its $600 million campaign. Subscription required.

Finally, I just want to give a shout out to the Veritus Group Passionate Giving blog. There is just some great writing here about major gifts fundraising. It is now in my RSS feed.

What are you reading?


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