Worth Mag on Philanthropy, Foreign and Domestic
Worth Magazine, which targets the high-net worth demographic, provides consistently high-quality coverage of philanthropy and issues in social change. The August issue is no exception. It includes articles on the role of private philanthropy in education reform and Resource Generation, an organization which helps to develop progressive philanthropy among younger (15-35) donors. I especially appreciated the article entitled "Foreign Relations" which states that "...Supporters of cross-cultural giving plans must learn to balance their generosity with respect for local traditions." (The articles are not available on-line.)
It cites the case of Peter and Sallie Lihenthal who bought a second home in Anguilla in November 2005 and immediately began exploring how they might "give back" in their community. When the local school asked only for fans for the classrooms, new lightbulbs and new linoleum, the Lihenthal's encouraged them to think bigger. The larger vision which resulted from that request still hasn't manifested and the couple is back to the drawing board.
Worth cites my friend Pru Brown, a Chapin Hall researcher who co-wrote the 2007 report "Hard Lessons About Philanthropy & Community Change From the Neighborhood Improvement Initiative." Although her report focuses on a domestic initiative by the Hewlett Foundation, the same lessons seem to apply.
In many community change efforts, the community wants to start out with a stop sign, a cleanup drive or something that seems very modest and with little potential to transform the neighborhood...If you dismiss what the community wants, you're already demonstrating a kind of disrespect and prioritizing your own needs as a giver over that of the instituion or community."
With all PhilanthroMedia's talk of "strategic philanthropy" this is the sort of mistake that we might be especially well-positioned to make, what with good being the enemy of best and all. But this cautionary note rings true.