BIG Philanthropy

What will be philanthropy’s “new story?”

Listening at the Summit April 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 6:07 pm

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. That is the driver of philanthropy. For those relationships to be transformational, not merely transactional requires a degree of listening that most people are unfamiliar or simply uncomfortable with. When I was a director of programs at a regional association of grantmakers, I was responsible for grantmaker education and in that role never met a practitioner who disagreed with this statement: “a critical component of a program officer’s job and a key to their success is good listening skills.” Of course, finding people who actually had such skills was shockingly difficult. The good news is that once people took their professional development seriously they were willing to work on their listening skills.

Listening is going to be my modus operandi at the COF Summit next month. Rather than filling up space with words (with the notable exception of this blog), I will be there to listen to the sounds of $2,500 people gathering in the name of philanthropy. I will do my best to listen well and then to share with you what I am hearing.


The Experience Philanthropy Project April 21, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 8:35 pm

Last week I had the pleasure of attending for the first time the Experience Music Project’s Pop Music conference in Seattle – mostly to be a good supporter of my ethnomusicologist partner and to take a needed break from work. What a refreshing dip into an entirely different “pool.” As I face the prospect of attending the Council on Foundation’s Summit in May, I find myself longing for a time when COF (and the field in general) would take a few cues from the EMP. Specifically, I wish that philanthropy conference organizers would focus on diversifying attendees in order to create dynamic space that allows for unusual alliances and novel ideas to emerge. At the EMP conference there were academics, journalists, artists, and “betweeners” (someone who does not fit neatly in those categories such as me, a nonprofit leaders who cares about the role of art and culture in social change). This set the right tone for vibrant discourse, setting a stage that forced people to get out of their comfort zone. The end result was an exciting exploration and exchange of ideas about emerging issues in popular music. So let’s take a minute to try to “reimagine” the COF summit as a place where all who participate in and/or benefit from philanthropy (and the “in betweeners” who might help shape its future direction) come together, recognizing their interdependence in service to a common cause to learn, share and grow. I don’t think I am alone when I say, “I’m ready for that.” This spring what might have sprung if COF had focused on creating a common meeting ground for a vigorous mix of people and ideas?

More to come on the reality of the Summit when I join the other 2,5000 attendees next month.


The Charity vs. Philanthropy Debate: Flipping the Script April 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 9:28 pm

Too often we are told that we need to fund change, not charity. Tiring of the “either/or” nature of this discussion, I would like to propose an “and/both” approach. Charity is not a bad thing – it is about short-term relief that helps reduce suffering. Who can argue with that? I can’t. However, I also have to stand up TALL for long-term strategies that represent to me the true promise of philanthropy. We need giving that gets to the root causes of social, environment and economic ills and thereby reduces the number of people in need of charitable relief. Both charity and social change philanthropy as typically practiced are done with an eye toward relieving suffering but the latter simply takes a longer term, systemic view in crafting its approaches. This means that yes, charity and social change philanthropy are at one level on the same team. Often the charitable impulse is the necessary starting point for people who then move into more strategic giving. Who can argue with that?  I can’t. To flip the script, my new mantra is change AND charity because sometimes you need to reach out to the person suffering on the block while also making sure that no one else will have to suffer like that ever again.

“Philanthropy is commendable. But it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the economic injustice that makes philanthropy  necessary.” — Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr.