Fundamental Questions of Philanthropy, More


The Four Fundamental Questions of Philanthropy
By Albert Ruesga, White Courtesy Telephone

ALBERT RUESGA on how to decide what to do with $600,000,000.

The Ford Foundation, the second largest foundation on the planet, with assets of $12 billion, is about to hire a new CEO. What will the new CEO do with all that money?  How, among all the possibilities available to her, will she decide to focus the foundation’s grantmaking?

The new CEO will want to honor the foundation’s previous commitments.  She won’t want to make any sudden moves.  But having exercised the necessary prudence, and having consulted her board, toward what star will she steer her course?

Granted, if you took all the giving in one year of all the foundations in the United States—approximately $34 billion—the sum would barely equal three percent of all nonprofit operating expenses. In fact, it wouldn’t even cover the expenses of the 70 largest nonprofit hospitals (and there are 3,000 nonprofit hospitals in the United States).* Nevertheless, with an annual grantmaking budget of $600,000,000, the new Ford Foundation CEO will be able to move the needle significantly on any number of issues.

Imagine that it fell to you, dear reader, to invest $600,000,000 each year in charitable work.  How would you do it? I can’t imagine anybody doing this successfully without first attempting to answer the Four Fundamental Questions of Philanthropy … >>Continue reading this post

Charity Fundraiser-in-Chief
By Mark Rosenman, Public Service Professor, Union Institute & University
MARK ROSENMAN on the government’s competition with nonprofits.

We’re used to hearing about politicians trolling for campaign contributions. This has posed a particular problem for public interest nonprofits—it’s hard for them to compete with large corporations that use strategic gifts to help sway legislation, regulation, and policy decisions. Campaign donations haven’t been such a problem for other charities, which don’t view politicians as competition for dollars because campaign contributions aren’t tax deductible.  But, surprise, the President has just made some of his fundraising a problem for all nonprofits. 

President Bush is asking for $1 billion in foundation grants and other tax deductible charitable contributions to replace the much-needed funding he has egregiously failed to give our national parks for years and years.

Leaders have long called upon institutional and individual donors—you and me—to cover dwindling government funding for nonprofits that provide basic human services and attend to other public needs. But in February, the President led the federal government into direct competition with those very nonprofits for the very grants and individual donations they depend on to pick up some of the slack. And he’s done this … >>Continue reading this post

Old Man Eating
By Jeff Brooks, Creative Director, Merkle|Domain

JEFF BROOKS on the frustrating photo that works in fundraising.

You’ve seen this photo before.

It’s the icon of urban rescue mission fundraising. Among rescue mission insiders, he’s “Old Man Eating”—or, if you’ve been in the business for a long time, “OME.” An elderly white male, bearded, sitting at a table and eating. This photo is how you raise money for rescue missions. It works. For decades missions have been testing against it: So far, to my knowledge, it’s unbeatable.

Trouble is, he’s not typical of those served by most rescue missions. And many who work at rescue missions are bored silly with him. Furthermore, if you ask donors to missions whether it’s more important to focus on helping homeless old men or homeless children, they usually tell you children.

Yet donor acquisition efforts that feature pictures of children don’t work. OME outperforms kids every time.

It’s fundraising dissonance. Old Man Eating touches people’s hearts and motivates them to give. Even though he’s not the real picture of the need. Even though these very same donors know that helping younger people is more impactful. 

That’s because the decision to give is an emotional one, not a rational one. Emotional triggers, not rational ones, are those that motivate giving. And OME is a potent emotional trigger.

So what are you going to do? Stubbornly insist on showing the “real” need—and cripple your ability to do your work by decreasing the number of donors who join you? That would be malfeasance. Spend a zillion dollars trying to “educate” every donor in America about the real problem? That won’t work—anyway, they already know … >>Continue reading this post


How can you climb the corporate ladder while keeping your values intact? The author, a former partner at Morgan Stanley, shows how anyone in business can find his or her moral compass. McCoy provides guidance on ethical dilemmas and concerns.

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