David Rockefeller Jr and Susie Buffet on Giving
I attended a panel last week, sponsored by the Milano New School for Management and Urban Policy called: Big Ideas, Big Gifts, Big Impact: A Conversation with Today's Philanthropists which featured Susan A. Buffett, Warren Buffet’s daughter as well as Chairman of Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, and David Rockefeller Jr., Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation. Here are the highlights:
- Further proof that he is what The Economist calls the leading “brand” for philanthropy, Bill Clinton provided a personalized video intro for the panel saying he would have been there if not for his Summit taking place this week.
- David described one aspect of his life-long evolution as a donor by saying that he once believed that teacher preparation was the most leveraged way to improve public education. While he still believes it is of tremendous importance, he pulled back from funding it because he became so discouraged by “ what the public and private sector can do about it.”
- David and Susie both agreed on the importance of “saying no fast” when it comes to requests for money. I appreciated their candor on this one. Anyone who has raised money knows that while you might really press to get a meeting with a major donor, major donors can’t afford to waste time. The more seasoned also appreciate how important it is not to waste the time of grantseekers, unless the potential for alignment is suggested from the beginning.
- Susie has been in a giving circle with 14 women for five years. From it she has discovered a number of projects that wouldn’t otherwise have been on her radar.
- Susie was asked her opinion of new efforts to pay low-income parents for activities like taking their kids to the doctor or to after-school tutoring. Given her dad’s workhorse ethic, and her strong identification with it, I was surprised by her answer which was that while it “may sound nutty” we have to start trying stuff it’s strange but I think we have to give it a try.”
- The panel was hosted by Fred Hochberg, Milano’s dean, who provided a intriguing aside on the topic of microfinance. He’s on the board of a microfinance organization he didn’t name. He said that 95% of their loans are to women “because men spend it on women and booze. I say let’s just cut out the middleman.”