BIG Philanthropy

What will be philanthropy’s “new story?”

Scarcity vs. Abundance May 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 11:30 pm

When I was a child I received a lesson in abundance that has lasted a lifetime. We were poor and so from my limited view everything was scarce. Then I recall a night when a woman came by with her three kids asking for help. My mother took half of the milk we had in the fridge and gave it to her. This struck me – I guess there is enough after all! This was my first lesson in the power of viewing the world through a lens of abundance. This was a lesson that I learned over and over again from my mom the philanthropist.  To this day I still feel that what we need is already here and I so I neither fret or fear that  there not being enough to go around nor do I hoard.

This spring we are all being schooled in the power of abundance as U.S. donors give to relief efforts in Myanmar and China while still supporting the domestic groups that rely on their generosity. And they may not yet realize it but they can do more – if only they would put on that lens of abundance. Almost every study on charitable giving or generosity notes the counterintuitive finding that low-income people give away a higher percentage of what they have compared to their wealthier counterparts. Perhaps some of these good people who give at relatively low levels compared to their wealth are suffering from the effects of early lessons focused on scarcity and thus, their fear is understandable – it is also something they can be overcome. We can connect to inspiring stories of people who have decided to think bigger about their giving potential through the work of Bolder Giving and the 50% League



The unknown commentators in previous post

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 11:29 pm

Please note that the comments on social justice philanthropy gathered at the Philanthropy 2.0 reception were from different people – not me – they simply did not identify themselves. 


PLEASE BLOG-Live from the COF Summit May 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 11:56 pm


2008 is looking to be an exciting year for philanthropy and Changemakers. This coming year, Changemakers is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of grantmaking and advocacy to promote social change philanthropy.  In connection with our 10-year anniversary, we have launched a video project to engage leaders and stakeholders in grantmaking and community building in a dialogue to explore (1) ways to make the message of social change philanthropy relevant to our times – moving it beyond its firm “Baby Boomer” definitions and roots and (2) strategies for building a “bigger tent” for change that reaches “beyond the choir” and increases our potential impact on the sector.

Your opinion counts!  We need your insights to enhance our understanding of the movement to make philanthropy more transparent, accountable and effective at addressing the root causes of social, economic and environmental problems that our communities face. We have all learned so much over the last 10 years.  Our lessons need to be captured and used as the basis for conversation and action over the next 10 years to bring the best in us — foundations, donors, support organizations and other philanthropic entities that make up the field.


Please ponder the following questions and share your thoughts with us by participating in a videotaped or digitally recorded conversation or simply commenting on our blog:

1.     What kind of place do you dream of for those you love and for our communities?  

2.     What role do you think philanthropy can play in making that dream a reality? What do you think are the challenges for philanthropy in playing that role?  How can we address those challenges?

3.     When you hear the words “social justice” what ideas or thoughts come to mind?

4.     Is the phrase “social justice philanthropy” meaningful to you in your work? If so, how? If not, why?

5.     Do you know of examples or models of engagement in philanthropy that work?




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.


The Reimagining Philanthropy Dialogue Project March 28, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 11:52 pm

Whether you call it “social justice philanthropy” or “social change philanthropy” or you don’t call it anything at all, the “it” has existed in a bit of bubble. Let’s break it out of the bubble and welcome it into the 21st century. Quite frankly, it is long overdue for a “makeover.” To that end, we need vibrant discourse in the field of philanthropy about its meaning and relevancy (or lack thereof) — and we need it now. To this end, Changemakers has launched a video project to help jump-start the conversation.This is how it started: In mid-March we invited people from the field of philanthropy who were in San Francisco for the GEO (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) conference to be interviewed for this project. The goal: engage people in conversation in the hope of uncovering new messaging that matters AND moves people. Here is the opening paragraph from that email request to potential interviewees:”I hope this e-mail finds you well. 2008 is looking to be an exciting year for philanthropy and Changemakers. This coming year, Changemakers is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of grantmaking and advocacy to promote social change philanthropy. In connection to our 10-year anniversary, we are engaging leaders and stakeholders in grantmaking and community building in a dialogue to explore (1) ways to make the message of social change philanthropy relevant to our times and (2) strategies for building a “bigger tent” for change that reaches “beyond the choir” and increases our potential impact on the sector.”This is where the project is going: on the road to set up shop at the Council on Foundations’ Summit in early May. So what do you think?How would you like to see the final product used? Do you want to be part of this? (We particularly want to include voices of people for whom the term may not be so meaningful or relevant in their work.) We would love to hear your thoughts/insights!